In this issue of Clif’s Notes, I provide an update on the state appropriations for fiscal year 2013 and how it affects our budget. I also provide a summary of three topics from the June 22 Board of Governors meeting: the Walnut Street housing project, the resolution on plus/minus grading and the renewal of the contract for West Plains Chancellor Drew Bennett. Finally, I am providing an update on the Higher Learning Commission accreditation process.
State appropriations set for fiscal year 2013
On Friday, Governor Jay Nixon announced that he would withhold 1 percent from the flat budget that the Missouri General Assembly had approved for higher education. For Missouri State, that means state appropriations will decrease by $793,429, from $79,342,892 this year to $78,549,463 next year.
To provide context, let me review some key points in this process:
- January 2012 — Governor Nixon announced his budget recommendation which included a 12.5 percent reduction in state appropriations for higher education. For Missouri State, this would have amounted to about $10 million.
- February 2012 — Governor Nixon amended his budget recommendation because of a settlement of a lawsuit – about $40 million of one-time money was added to the budget, which allowed the reduction for higher education to be 7.78 percent. For Missouri State, this would have amounted to about $6 million; this became the basis for the budget that the Board approved last Friday.
- May 2012 — The Missouri General Assembly approved a flat budget for higher education — i.e., next year’s state appropriations would be the same as this year.
- Last Friday, June 22 — Governor Nixon announced he would withhold 1 percent from the higher education budget because he believed the overall state budget not to be in balance, which is required by the Missouri Constitution. Again, this amounts to $793,429 for Missouri State.
Given this history and where we started in the process, we are very pleased with the outcome. It means that we have some flexibility and the opportunity to make strategic investments later this fall. I very much appreciate the hard work of our legislators and Governor Nixon to restore much of the higher education budget. It continues to be one of the best investments that can be made in the future of our state.
Priorities for unbudgeted money
At the Board meeting Friday, the Board agreed with the administration that the three priorities for the unbudgeted money should be: increasing salaries for employees; making strategic investments in programs, especially those with potential to generate additional revenue; and restoring sources of one-time funds included in the fiscal year 2013 budget recommendation.
As we have indicated for some time now, we will wait until the fall to begin these discussions. That way, we can gauge the strength of our enrollment and get a better handle on how much our health plan costs have increased. At the appropriate time, the Executive Budget Committee will meet to discuss the options and make recommendations to me. I will then make recommendations to the Board of Governors for approval.
I am hopeful and optimistic we will be able to provide a salary increase next year. If so, that increase likely would occur at mid-year again, as it did this past year.
In the meantime, the Board approved the budget we recommended based on the 7.78 percent reduction in state appropriations.
Walnut Street housing project
We had planned to discuss with the Board and move forward with the Walnut Street housing project, but we pulled it from the agenda because the bids for that project came in significantly over the budget we were prepared to support. We had agreed that the total project could not exceed $36 million, with the construction portion at about $29 million. Unfortunately, the construction bids came in about $4.5 million over the budget, so we are not proceeding with that plan.
Let me emphasize that this does not mean that we are abandoning our goal of developing more apartment-style housing, especially targeted to upper classmen and graduate students. We very much need to have more of that type of housing to be competitive and we are committed to that goal. So, we will look at altering the Walnut Street project, as well as continue to explore and pursue other alternatives.
Related, on Friday the Board approved hiring a consultant to look at best options for Sunvilla Tower. We will explore the full range of options, from demolishing the facility to significantly renovating it.
My hope is we can develop an overall plan for improving our residence life options that we can take it to the Board of Governors no later than February 2013.
The Board of Governors approved a resolution in support of plus/minus grading by establishing a governing policy on it.
The Board strongly encouraged the entire campus community to collaboratively implement the policy, especially when it comes to its consistent application. Provost Frank Einhellig will help lead this discussion. At the meeting, Board members expressed their appreciation for the professional way in which all sides voiced their positions during extended discussions at the Board’s Academic Affairs Committee meeting in May.
Chancellor Bennett’s contract renewed
In the executive session of the Board meeting, the Board unanimously approved my recommendation to extend the contract for Chancellor Drew Bennett for another two years through June 30, 2014.
In the past five years, Drew has provided good leadership for the West Plains Campus. Enrollment has grown, relationships in the seven counties have been strengthened, and the West Plains campus has become more integrated with the rest of the Missouri State System.
I was pleased to make this recommendation and I am pleased that Drew has accepted and the Board has approved it.
Update on Higher Learning Commission accreditation
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is an independent corporation and one of two commission members of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), which is one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. The Higher Learning Commission accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region. In preparation for comprehensive evaluation and site visit in 2015-16, we are beginning work on our Quality Initiative Project (QIP), required as part of the new Open Pathway available to institutions through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). MSU must submit its QIP proposal by Sept. 1, 2012.
Developing assessment plan for student learning outcomes
The goal of the Missouri State QIP is to develop a comprehensive, university-wide assessment plan for student learning outcomes related to the public affairs mission in general education, discipline specific programs and co-curricular activities. Two task forces – one faculty and one co-curricular group – are working this summer to develop rubrics and a process to collect data that will be incorporated into a comprehensive plan.
The faculty work group is charged with drafting a process and rubrics for assessment of our public affairs mission in general education and in Missouri State programs. Members of the faculty work group include: Joshua Smith, Shannon Wooden, Susan Crain, Tom Dicke, Vera Stanojevic, Cindy Hail, Kelly Cara and Chris Craig. Their report will be submitted by July 20, and then the process and rubrics will be vetted through CGEIP and Faculty Senate this fall for implementation by mid-fall. In addition, Interim Provost Einhellig is charging the Assessment Council with oversight of the new process and will be searching for an assessment director.
A second task force is working this summer to develop a plan to assess public affairs student learning outcomes in co-curricular activities. This group includes Thomas Lane, Denise Baumann, Melissa Berry and Tabitha Haynes.
As we come to the end of my first year as interim president and the conclusion of this fiscal year, I want to thank you again for your continued efforts on behalf of Missouri State University. I especially want to thank you for your patience, cooperation and input on the budget for fiscal year 2013. I know it was a roller-coaster ride on state appropriations, but I think we ended up in a good place: with a minimum reduction and a significant number of dollars we can strategically invest.
Thank you for your support. I will continue to keep you informed about key issues facing Missouri State University.