By Blake Neff – The University of Missouri (MU) is losing about 1500 students and is facing a huge $32 million budget shortfall four months after it attracted national attention as the site of massive race-based campus protests.
“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,” said MU interim chancellor Hank Foley in a Wednesday letter to school staff that was obtained by Fox Sports.
According to Foley’s letter, MU will have about 1500 fewer students in fall 2016 compared to last year, an unexpected drop that is in turn causing a big dip in the school’s tuition income.
Because of the abrupt and unexpected nature of the shortfall, Foley is taking immediate and severe steps to fix the situation: The school budget is being cut 5 percent across the board, all hiring is being frozen (barring exceptional circumstances), and annual raises have been canceled. He has also announced a new, more intensive effort to recruit potential Mizzou students by phone, email, and even via Skype.
Even with all these measures, Foley anticipates MU having a deficit of about $1o million,which he said would be made up using the school’s reserve funds.
In November 2015, MU was rocked by major protests led by the Concerned Student 1950 group, which accused President Timothy Wolfe of not doing enough to address racial tensions on campus. After black players on the school football team announced a strike, Wolfe resigned and the school caved to a host of other protester demands. Meanwhile, the same day of Wolfe’s resignation, communications professor Melissa Click grabbed headlines for attacking a student journalist who tried to cover the ongoing protests.
Now, while Click and Wolfe are gone, the consequences of that turbulent November continue to reverberate, not the least because Concerned Student 1950 continues to engage in very public protests while demanding even more concessions from the school.
It was already known that MU had seen a drop in applications following the protests, but Foley’s letter drives home just how big a blow the school has been dealt.
Foley doesn’t break down the 1,500 lost student by class year, but the bulk of the decline comes from a major dip in the size of the entering freshman class. How major? In 2015, MU had 6,200 freshman undergraduates, meaning its freshman class size may have shrunk by 20 percent or more, an incredible swing for a single year.
Notably, Foley’s letter makes no mention of the protests as a potential factor in Mizzou’s declining appeal.
Foley also is unlikely to have much luck in turning to Missouri lawmakers for support. Disgusted by the university’s actions last fall, Republicans have refused to increase its budget and have even been considering making a big cut to the school’s state support.
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