Following last year’s protests by student, enrollment at the University of Missouri has plunged. The substantial decrease in incoming class has help contribute to a staggering $32 million budget deficit for Mizzou. The vast drop represents nearly a 25 percent decline in freshman enrollment.
Hank Foley, the Interim Chancellor of the University, sent out a letter addressing the university’s financial woes and detailing their recovery strategy:
“Dear university community,
I am writing to you today to confirm that we project a very significant budget shortfall due to an unexpected sharp decline in first-year enrollment and student retention this coming fall. I wish I had better news.
The anticipated declines, which total about 1,500 fewer students than current enrollment at MU, in addition to a small number of necessary investments are expected to leave us with an approximate $32 million budget gap for next year. A smaller entering freshman class will have continuing impact on finances as they progress toward their degrees at MU…
Given that these declines are the result of drops in first-time student enrollments and retention of enrolled students, there are a number of initiatives and projects currently underway to stem the tide in both the short- and long-term. We are reaching out to admitted students who have not yet enrolled and to their parents with phone calls, Skype calls, videos and a text campaign, all of which involve current students, faculty and administrators throughout the university. We also are in the process of adding more out-of-state recruiters and we are redesigning all our Admissions materials to ensure they meet the expectations and needs of prospective students. I have also asked Admissions to develop a new web-based admissions platform that is streamlined and that will involve live feedback to prospective students. The goal is to make it easy to apply and to know very quickly what their prospects are for admission to MU. The key is to be faster, more personal and much more interactive.
To this end, we are implementing the following guidelines for FY17 budget planning. We will:
Impose a cut of 5 percent to all annual recurring general revenue budgets (rate dollars) without exception. Should the current assumptions that led to a $32 million gap be absolutely accurate, we will be $10 million short of balancing our recurring budget. A gap of that nature will be addressed in FY17 with reserves (cost dollars), and then any additional cuts necessary to balance the recurring budget will be carried into the following year.
We are implementing an across-the-board hiring freeze for all units on campus. We urge all campus administrators to carefully review their staffing levels and to not refill any positions unless they are absolutely necessary to the mission. Decisions to add faculty or staff must be exceptional, but will be left to the discretion of the deans, vice chancellors, vice provosts and the director of athletics.
We will not have an annual merit increase program this year. Effectively that means merit increases are at zero for the entire campus. Promotional increases for faculty will still be provided.
While these budget challenges will affect our ability to deliver teaching, research and service to Missourians in the short term, we also know that we have survived other stressors of this kind before. We will endeavor as a campus to make decisions on these reductions that will least hamper our ability to deliver our core mission. We also will seek to build on the strengths of this university as we move forward.”
“This impact is not just at the university,” Boone County Commissioner Karen Miller said. “It’s all of the student housing we have downtown. We’re going to have a whole lot of vacancy going on, and that’s only going to make things worse for our business community as a whole.”
When is the last time you heard a big name university even talk about not churning out a huge profit? It’s nearly unheard of. Especially with a college that has a strong athletic program such as a Mizzou, which had an operating revenue of $83.7 million in 2014. Mizzou received $166 million in state appropriations in 2012, not to mention the generous endowments and donations that the university receives, like in 2011 when they were gifted $126.6 million. Colleges and casinos basically print their own money. So you know you’ve done something catastrophically wrong when you are a prominent university and are $32 million in debt.
The highly controversial protests have spun the university in quite a negative light, and has brought a voice and some power to Concerned Student 1950. Academy Award-winning director Spike Lee was at Mizzou to witness the latest demonstrations by the protest group as he works on an ESPN 30 For 30 documentary titled “2 Fists Up” that focuses on the racially motivated boycott by Missouri’s football team last fall.
This comes after the Vice Chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity at the University of Missouri balked at the activist group’s absurd and unconstitutional demands over a week ago.
This all seems like a steep price to pay to voice displeasure over a swastika that was drawn with human feces that was most likely aimed at Jewish students, as well as one atrocious, spineless coward who allegedly yelled a racial slur as he drove by in a red pickup truck, who may not have even been a student of the university, and the resignation of the school’s president, Tim Wolfe, after graduate student Jonathan Butler lied about being hit by his vehicle during a Concerned Student 1950 protest. All that, yet nobody was caught or punished for doing the alleged racist actions, and still the university is $32 million in the hole.
On the bright side, with the lesser amount of students on campus it opens up more room for safe spaces.