UM System Would Score Limited Budget Relief in House Proposal

Mar 16, 2017

About $22 million would be restored to higher education budgets throughout Missouri in the proposed 2018 state budget, according to a bill discussed by a House committee on Wednesday.

However, unlike the funds for other schools, the UM System's portion would only apply to certain cooperative programs. This means little relief for a large portion of the university system, which is poised to lose $40 million from its core budget as recommended by Gov. Eric Greitens.

Though the budget committee chairman said he followed the wishes of university officials, a system spokesman disagreed.

While the funding for other schools goes to core budgets, the $8.5 million restored to the UM budget is dispersed as followed: 

  • $5 million to a MU medical school expansion program based in Springfield;
  • $1 million to a UM pharmacy program based at Missouri State University;
  • $1 million to a UM engineering program at MSU;
  • $1.5 million to a UM cooperative dental program with Missouri Southern State University.

House budget chair Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, said he followed what he had been told were the UM System's top priorities. He said the amount was determined based on what UM has historically received as a proportion of overall funding.

"Typically, the UM System receives 40 percent of funding to higher education institutions." said Fitzpatrick. "So to be fair to the other systems, we calculated what 40 percent of the $22 million we were restoring was and gave that to the UM cooperative programs."

But John Fougere, a spokesman for the UM System, said that while UM did indicate concern for the programs, it did not expect the choice to restore such programs to be a trade-off for core budget funding. 

"We had concerns when the governor zeroed out funds for several recurring programs and wanted those restored," said Fougere in an email, "but did not discuss changing the percentage cuts in the core budget in exchange. We expect to be treated the same as all other institutions and will work with the Missouri Senate to accomplish that."

The UM System has not received sympathy from Greitens, who has complained of waste and called on UM executives to make tough decisions while simultaneously avoiding pushing costs on students. In response to budget cuts, new UM President Mun Choi indicated that options for making up for the shortfall could include employee layoffs, program cuts and tuition hikes.

Choi has also terminated the executive performance incentive program, which became a controversial topic when State Auditor Nicole Galloway found that $2.3 million in what she called "inappropriate bonus payments."