By Missourinet contributor Alex Derosier

In the face of a budget crunch and an enrollment drop, new University of Missouri System President Mun Choi is not taking a tuition increase, layoffs and program cuts off the table. The four campuses face $31 million in budget restrictions for the current fiscal year. Gov. Eric Greitens (R) has proposed about $57 million in cuts to the system for the next fiscal year that begins in July.

Dr. Mun Choi

The UM system is looking to waive state tuition caps to alleviate shortfalls. Choi said the system would need to raise tuition by 15% to 17% to accommodate state cuts – an option he says it won’t use. Instead, he says it will seek moderate tuition hikes.

“We cannot increase tuition by that level and still serve the needs of citizens of this state,” he says. “We are evaluating with all of our CFOs, chancellors, and provosts what an appropriate amount will be that still keeps our tuition affordable and still provides us with the revenue we need.”

Choi says tough program decisions could be ahead.

“In order for us to grow programs of excellence, we have to be able to prune those programs that are no longer meeting the mission or the high goals we have for excellence,” says Choi.

He would not say which programs UM is looking to eliminate, but stresses that he will consult with university faculty, officials, and students in the decision making process.

“It’s not going to be top down,” he says. “It’s going to be a collaborative process where we listen to the perspectives of the important stakeholders.”

Ultimately, Choi says there will still be tough choices made so that the system can be stronger in the future.

Choi has moved quickly to shut down a controversial program. UM’s executive performance incentive program has been terminated.

A state of Missouri audit revealed earlier this week that University administrators were paid more than $2 million through the program with hidden compensation and bonuses. The UM board of curators says it supports Choi’s decision. Choi has also launched comprehensive review of administrator compensation practices.

The board of curators will review pay practices and transparency, but Choi says, university administrator pay will be compared to rates in other states to remain competitive. To make the process transparent, he said information on compensation packages for administrators will be made available to the public in the future.

Choi said the UM will avoid creating further course fees to make up for shortfalls in tuition, saying the practice was not transparent. Instead, they will look to student recruitment, and boosting retention and graduation rates. The system will also push for stronger partnerships with industry and communities across the state to increase employment opportunities for students and investment in universities.