Enrollment impacts budget

As Missouri lawmakers try to determine a state-wide budget, Truman State University officials are planning a budget based on flat core funding and fewer enrolled students.

There are currently three proposals for higher education appropriation floating around state government: one from Gov. Mike Parson, another from the House and one from the Senate. Truman administration is planning a budget which takes into account all three proposals, as well as around 300 fewer students.

Parson proposed flat core funding for higher education, $20 million in additional funding for maintenance and repairs for four-year institutions — meaning $1 million for Truman — as well as $22 million for the MOExcel programs — which Truman has two of. The House has proposed a similar plan with flat core funding, but $11 million for maintenance and repairs and $19 million for the MOExcel programs. The Senate has proposed adding a recurring $28 million to core funding for four-year institutions instead of allocating money for maintenance and repairs, as well as $10 million for the MOExcel program.

“We’re very conservative in how we budget here,” University president Sue Thomas said. “We never want to be in the position that we assume we have more than what actually comes in and then we have to go back.”

If the conservative budget is used, Thomas said, there will likely be a tuition increase and no faculty compensation increases next year.

Thomas said there is a potential to increase tuition by up to 5% because of how much state funding decreased in the last two years. This would have to be approved by the Board of Governors at its next meeting.

The 300 student figure comes from an expected decrease in 100 freshman students and 200 other students, which Thomas said comes from the larger graduating class and small current freshman class.

Thomas said as of right now, there is still a lot unknown about how much Truman will receive from the state, but the one thing that seems constant is funding for the MOExcel program.

“If enrollment looks better … that opens up some money,” Thomas said. “If, and I’ll probably fall backwards out of my chair, if we actually get a million dollars added to our base in a recurring way from the state, that’s a whole new ballgame to be able to talk about things. At this moment in time, it is just all totally unknown.”

Dave Rector, vice president for administration, finance and planning, said flat core funding is what he is working with because it is the most likely.

Among the measures taken to save money are closing Dobson Hall, which will save about $250,000, and not filling some open faculty and staff positions. Rector said not filling those positions is a reaction to the lower enrollment, because they are no longer needed.

“A lot of it is vacant positions being eliminated,” Rector said. “It’s not just retirements — it’s more restructuring and deciding do we need to fill all these vacancies.”

Rector said restructuring is not new to Truman or any higher education institution in the past few years. He said the University is fortunate it hasn’t had to completely eliminate as many programs as other Missouri colleges.

Additionally, the University’s rate on its retirement system increased, as did health insurance rates. These increases will cost about $1.3 million and cannot be covered by a tuition increase, so Rector said he has worked with the other vice presidents to reallocate their department funds to cover that cost.

The student service budget is made up mostly of the auxiliary budget, which is funded through student fees and tuition. Rector said the cuts to that budget are mostly covered by closing Dobson for the year.

Rector said he thinks the current level of funding from the state is where it will likely stay for a while.

“I think things will turn around here,” Rector said. “I think all the state universities of Missouri are coming to the realization that our budget cycle with the state, where you’d have a bad year or two and then it would come back up and grow for several years … that’s gone.”