MU chancellor, top administrators talk to faculty about program reviews

By WALKER MOSKOP

neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

COLUMBIA — MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said the review of “low-producing” degree programs is intended to seek out ways to improve the quality of state institutions during a fall faculty meeting Wednesday afternoon with several dozen MU faculty.

Later, in an interview, Deaton said the possibility of consolidating and merging programs “in no way suggests reducing faculty at all.”

Combining smaller programs would actually increase the demand for teaching and research and would have a positive impact overall, he said.

MU has until Oct. 21 to provide the state’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education its recommended actions for 75 programs that failed to meet the productivity criteria established by the board.

“This is happening on a much faster deadline than any of us would like, but it is only a preliminary (step),” Deaton said. “We need some sense from all of you, from our deans, from department chairs, in looking at these programs – what should we be saying about them? Are we using our resources most effectively? … Are they among our best programs? I don’t think any of us have any sense of (the answers to these questions).”

Programs were included in the list if they didn’t meet the board’s criteria of producing 10 graduates per year at the bachelor’s level, five graduates per year at the master’s level and three graduates per year at the doctorate level, all calculated over a three-year average.

Deaton said Gov. Jay Nixon is essentially asking state institutions to explain what the data in the list of programs means. He said the state wants a report on what programs could be consolidated in a way that would strengthen institutions.

Deaton said MU Provost Brian Foster has been working with deans, the Faculty Council and other campus groups to assess the review process and develop a framework for evaluating degrees that have been deemed “low-producing.”

“Help us with (this),” he told faculty. “You’re the experts on this.”

Program review was only one issue among many addressed during the meeting.

Faculty Council Chairwoman Leona Rubin talked to her colleagues about potential changes in employee retirement benefits.

She stressed that if MU were to switch from its current defined benefit program to a defined contribution program, the change wouldn’t apply to current employees — only future hires.

MU Budget Director Tim Rooney said the state’s funding outlook is a big unknown as MU plans for 2012.

He said MU is expecting a 5 percent to 15 percent reduction in state funding for 2012, which would result in a $10 million to $31 million decrease in revenue. However, Rooney said the state expects a 6 percent jump in revenue in 2012.

Rooney said MU plans on increasing tuition rates, which he said would mean appealing a Missouri law mandating that tuition can’t increase at a higher rate than the consumer price index. The CPI has increased by only 1 percent for fiscal year 2010, Rooney said.

He underscored that MU needs to ensure enrollment isn’t affected by a rise in tuition.

Rooney said a 10 percent projected increase in the cost of Social Security benefits is another significant factor that must be considered.

“I think that the fiscal year 2012 budget will perhaps be the most daunting budget that we’ve had to ever work through,” he said.

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