- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2016

The University of Missouri campus rocked by racial protests last year is in damage-control mode after experiencing a nearly 25 percent drop in freshman enrollment and a staggering $32 million budget shortfall.

Interim MU Chancellor Hank Foley emailed students this week anticipating a decline of 1,500 entering freshman students, equal to nearly 25 percent of the fall 2015 freshman class, the Columbia Tribune reported.

He also announced a hiring freeze and 5 percent cut to all recurring general revenue budgets to close a projected $32 million shortfall for the coming fiscal year.

Mr. Foley said the drop in enrollment is “unexpected” and made no mention of the Concerned Student 1950 protests that led to the highly publicized November resignations of the president of the University of Missouri System and the chancellor of the flagship Columbia campus. In February, an assistant professor involved in the protests was also fired.

“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 enrollments and student retention this coming fall. I wish I had better news,” Mr. Foley wrote in the email obtained by Fox Sports.

A 5 percent budget cut would eliminate about $20 million from the budget, still leaving the university with a $10 million shortfall, the Tribune reported. Mr. Foley explained in his memo that the remaining deficit would be covered from reserve funds. He also said the hiring freeze will only allow jobs “absolutely necessary to the mission” to be filled and pay raises will not be granted unless in conjunction with a promotion.

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

The Tribune notes that further cuts could be coming if lawmakers reduce state support for the fiscal 2016 budget. The bipartisan legislation was signed off by the House on Thursday and will move on to the state Senate for further debate.

On Tuesday, the Missouri House cut about $7.6 million from the University of Missouri system budget and an additional $1 million from the Columbia campus. The bill is up for a final vote Thursday to send it to the state Senate, the newspaper said.

Lawmakers have criticized MU administrators for caving to the protesters’ demands, with some suggesting Tuesday that a budget cut was the only way to keep administrators engaged with the Legislature, The Associated Press reported.

Rep. Jay Barnes, Jefferson City Republican, said the cut was meager compared to the university’s total budget. And Rep. Joshua Peters, St. Louis Democrat, said the cut is less than administrators spend on discretionary expenses such as stays at luxury hotels, AP reported.

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