On Monday Gov. Eric Greitens announced plans to cut $146.4 million to balance Missouri’s budget. Funding for higher education across the state took the biggest hit with $55.9 million withheld. Four year institutions like Southeast Missouri State University are currently reviewing the university’s budget for the fiscal year. KRCU’s Marissanne Lewis-Thompson spoke with Kathy Mangels, the Vice President for Finance and Administration at Southeast about these budget cuts and what it means for the university.
Lewis-Thompson: On the items listed in the budget restrictions for this year is the cyber security training program here at Southeast. It's a fairly new program. And something the governor mentioned was that programs that lack an established track record of success would face some financial restrictions. Has this program been successful in its infancy?
Mangels: Yes, I mean we've had a bachelor's degree here for several years and it's very successful. The funding that we had received from the state that has been withheld a portion of it was going to help us enhance that program. We're looking to create a master's degree in cyber security, also enhance some of the equipment that we train our students on. So the bachelor's program is very successful and that's what's lead against to want to do a master's program.
Lewis-Thompson: So what kind of effect will this have on the program? What's the future of it?
Mangels: We'll continue on. The bachelor's is very strong as I said. We will look for other ways perhaps to enhance equipment whether that's through donations or partnerships. As I said we'll continue to work on that curriculum for the master's program. It may just hold us back a little bit in terms of adding additional faculty that we would like to do for that program.
Lewis-Thompson: So obviously Gov. Greitens announced on Monday that $55.9 million is going to be withheld from higher education. And for Southeast that means they won't be getting $3.43 million. Will there be a tuition increase as a result of that?
Mangels: We do not plan based on these withholdings, which are withholdings for the current fiscal year. So FY17. We do not foresee that we will have any need to at this point change tuition for the spring or summer semesters. Obviously every year we go through a budget process for the next year and consider fee increases. But no we think at the level of these one-time withholdings we will absorb those without looking for any fee increase at this time.
Lewis-Thompson: So how will you all manage to kind of make up for what will not be in existence for this year.
Mangels: Well some of the things we look at in these situations where we're talking about one time dollars is how do we generate additional one-time dollars to replace that. And so there are things like whenever we have a vacancy in a position, so if I have a staff member who leaves it takes some time anyhow to replace that position. And during that period we're saving money, because we had planned on paying someone for the full year. Now we have a vacancy. So it may be that we look at our vacancies and say we need to keep those open for X number of months, and that will generate some additional one-time dollars. It means that others in the department have to step up and take on some additional work for a period of time. But it doesn't result in layoffs it just keeps a position open a little bit longer.
Lewis-Thompson: And we were talking that this particular cut it's a 7 percent cut across all of the major four year institutions across the state. So what does that mean?
Mangels: Yeah. So each of us out of the larger pot of money that's allocated to public four-year institutions we each get an allocation. And so, the way that these withholdings were distributed out was to take the same kind of percentage of our base appropriations. So for Southeast just to put it in perspective, we were slated to receive about $49 million for the full fiscal year. And so, 7 percent is about $3.4 million. So you know that's almost one month's allocation that we get from the state.
Lewis-Thompson: Now we were talking earlier, but this number it seems like a big chunk, but is it any higher or any lower than usual. What does that look like?
Mangels: Well you know because a state supported institution obviously just like the national economy the state's economy has ups and downs. And so for those who have been here a while when we look back historically back in 2002, 2003, 2004 time period was a period of a really rough time in the state economy. In that time we took in two fiscal years of 15 percent base cut and $9 million in one time withholding. Now that's pretty extreme. Back in 2011 and 2012 was another kind of down cycle for the state economy. During that period we took about a 12 percent base cut over three years so you know right now while the one time withholdings you know that is a large amount for a budget, one time withholdings are easier to absorb than base cuts. And one of the things we'll be looking to and looking to work with the governor in the legislature on is what does our FY18 budget look like and will we be facing base cuts come July 1.
Lewis-Thompson: And President Carlos Vargas sent out an e-mail to all the faculty and staff, and he said the budget review committee is going to be trying to put together and brainstorm some ideas to kind of balance this out. Have you all had any plans so far? Or is it just kind of you're still looking at it from the initial perspective?
Mangels: Yeah. The first meeting of the budget review committee will be next week and that is a standing committee we've had for over 20 years here at the university. It's a representative group from all across campus and it includes our student government leaders. So here at Southeast we have our students as voting members around the table balancing our budget. So the president and executive leadership have been talking about meeting this one time withholdings budget review. We'll also be talking about how does our FY18 budget look. Right now we don't know the governor has not announced his budget, so we'll get started. We'll be looking for that announcement from the governor, which will help us know how to predict state appropriations and we'll work throughout the spring semester to make recommendations to the president on how to balance the budget.