Between state withholding and room and board refunds to students, Truman State University is looking at a $7.3 million loss in revenue for the 2020 fiscal year.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson held back $3.3 million from Truman, which is about one-twelfth of what was originally appropriated for the University in an effort to counteract declining revenue. Additionally, Truman is crediting students who lived on campus during the spring semester with half of the room and board costs they were charged, which comes out to a $4 million loss.
Dave Rector, vice president for administration, finance and planning, said loss near the end of the fiscal year has made balancing the budget tougher than it usually is. To ensure the University isn’t operating on a deficit, Rector said Truman has clamped down on expenditures like equipment, travel, and new faculty and staff unless it is an emergency.
“We think we have a pretty good handle on how to wrap that up and not end up too much in the hole for the year, but it’s going to be tough,” Rector said. “We really don’t know until we get all the bills in because it depends on everything from utilities to you name it.”
While some projects are already under contract, such as repairs for the Greenwood Autism Clinic, Truman has suspended other construction plans or converted them to small in-house repairs.
Rector said the University is scheduled to receive $3.37 million in aid from the federal government to address costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This aid, Rector explained, is restricted in use as half is to be used for direct aid to current students and the other half is for costs incurred by shifting to remote and online learning. Despite already receiving the funds, however, Rector said regulations and rules for the money have not been established by the Department of Education, so there is no guidance on how the funds can or should be spent.
“Based on previous experience dealing with federal money, everyone is really holding back on that one,” Rector said. “If any schools have gone ahead and dispersed any of that money to students I would be surprised. If they did, they’re taking a chance because there are no rules yet.”
Rector said he hopes to know soon how the money can be used and has been in contact with Sen. Roy Blunt’s office about guidance. In the meantime, Truman is cutting costs as much as possible.
Projections for higher education funding for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, are also bleak. After throwing out a proposed budget with flat funding for higher education in light of the revenue shortfalls, the Missouri General Assembly is expected to introduce a new budget before the end of the month. Rector said he is preparing for state appropriations to be slashed by multiple millions of dollars.
Truman will also experience a loss in revenue as summer camps, such as Joseph Baldwin Academy, are diminished because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Summer study abroad trips, which also make Truman some money, have been canceled, as well. The University will still offer summer courses, but they will be through online alternative delivery methods.
Rector said Truman will likely finalize its budget as late as it can because there are too many undetermined factors right now. He said he expects the University’s budget to be lower, likely by millions of dollars.
Rector said he is optimistic about Truman’s future as the campus facilities are still in good shape and the faculty and staff are willing to work hard to ensure the University’s mission is still fulfilled.