UCM Combats 11 Million Dollar Deficit

Written by Alex Wilson, Contributor

This summer, Governor Mike Parson cut approximately $450 million from the state budget for the 2021 fiscal year. This state budget restriction means four-year colleges will be receiving an estimated $28 million dollars less than the previous fiscal year. These cuts could be increased depending on the status of state revenue throughout the course of the fiscal year.

  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, funding and enrollment rates have declined for the fiscal year of 2021, which began this July. According to Vice President of Finance and Operations Bill Hawley, the current deficit is the direct result of lower state appropriations and lower enrollment rates. 

  “We basically started with a 17 million dollar deficit going into this year,” Hawley said. “We identified about 6 million between some revenue increases relating to tuition and fees we picked up some revenue there. We identified about 4.3 million in potential cost reductions going into this year.” 

  According to Susan Brockhaus, Executive Director of Administrative Services, after applying staff furloughs and other methods to combat the deficit, the total still totals at around 11 million dollars. More action will be taken to further reduce the deficit.

  “In addition to the temporary furlough and pay reduction plan implemented for this fiscal year, a

minimum 90-day hiring freeze is in effect for vacant positions and non-essential capital projects

are being suspended,” Brockhaus said. “All employees are expected to practice good financial management, conserving university resources and using them in a prudent manner for essential functions of their department.”

  While no action has yet been taken at the University of Central Missouri, several disciplines and regions at UCM might face budgetary restrictions and reductions. According to Dr. Best, in his state of the union speech, every aspect of the institution, including facilities and academic programs, will be looked at. However, Hawley claims the value of the university for students will not be compromised.

  “We realize that the reason we are here is for the students,” Hawley said. “We wouldn’t want to do something that would have a negative impact or couldn’t be mitigated in some other way. We recognize the value of [students] because if it wasn’t for [them], we wouldn’t be here. That is what is first and foremost when we are looking through all these potential decisions.”

  The current plan is to combat the deficit over the course of the next few years while pursuing financial growth options and making processes as efficient as possible. According to Hawley, expenditures that do not benefit the campus enough might be considered for financial restrictions.

  “With the support of the board, we are being allowed two fiscal years to fully resolve this current deficit. We must, however, be resolute in addressing this remaining deficit and do much of that work in this current year,” according to President Best’s university address. “Although our time period will seem short, and it is, this board action provided for us an opportunity to come together this fall and carefully consider how to meet the challenge.”

  While pressing decisions will have to be made regarding the accessibility and university experience at UCM, students will continue to receive support from the school and its leadership.

At this moment, no decision has been made that has negatively affected the student body. Even in times of unprecedented upheaval to the way of life for most residents of the state, UCM leadership said they understand the unpredictability this year will contain and will continue to adapt to it.

  “We must also recognize that a focus on revenue generation doesn’t mean business as usual, because frankly, there is not as much usual business available for us to take advantage of,” according to President Best’s University Address. “This budget work must be guided by the full understanding that what we do will shape the identity of this institution and determine how well we are positioned to not only survive but thrive as we move forward.”