Subscribe for 99¢

COLUMBIA, Mo. • University of Missouri System President Mun Choi announced systemwide cuts Friday to a packed house on the Columbia campus.

In all, 474 jobs are being eliminated. About half of those are currently vacant, Choi said.

The flagship campus in Columbia took the biggest hits at 307 jobs, including elimination of 42 administrative positions and about 130 nontenured faculty members who will not have contracts renewed.

The Kansas City campus is losing 51 jobs, Rolla is losing 50 and St. Louis is losing 30.

Each campus is hosting town hall style meetings, including one held Friday at Mizzou, to further elaborate how these cuts will play out at the campus level.

Faculty and staff who attended the meeting had hoped that if their job was on the line, they would find out Friday. But those getting laid off won’t know until early next week, interim Chancellor Garnett Stokes said.

At the University of Missouri-St. Louis, just two people are expected to be laid off, because of retirements and current job openings. The UMSL town hall is set for Wednesday afternoon.

Personnel and benefits are about 80 percent of the system’s budget, so Choi said it would have been “inappropriate” not to cut jobs in order to meet the drop in revenue from state appropriations as well as projected declines in enrollment and tuition at UMSL and Mizzou.

Still, the more than $100 million in cuts are larger than needed to meet the budget deficit. The goal also was to strategically invest in programs that are projected to see continued growth, as well as to make strategic hires.

Choi said the plan is to hire upwards of 212 faculty members among the four campuses, including 161 at Mizzou, 19 at UMSL, 25 at Kansas City and seven at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla.

In addition to hiring personnel, the Mizzou campus in particular wants to put new money toward an effort to recruit more National Merit Scholar finalists and semi-finalists, and offer bolstered scholarship packages to students who receive need-based aid.

Mizzou also will see closures of centers and institutes, he said. Across the system, duplication of majors and minors will be eliminated.

“We cannot afford to have duplications,” Choi said.

Choi said the system was in the process of hiring a consulting firm to identify areas of duplication.

Choi pointed to a few examples of low-hanging fruit the campuses can address, including the use of a centralized platform where students from any campus can take an online class taught at a different campus. Right now, in some cases, students can take similar classes at several or all four campuses.

He also pointed out that putting more money into a particular engineering program at the Rolla campus should mean that there’s no need to grow the same program at Mizzou’s engineering school.

“We can’t be all things to all people,” Choi said, adding that he wanted each campus to embrace and grow its own “unique flavor.”

Each campus is reviewing every program they offer.

In addition to Mizzou’s announced cuts, 86 jobs are being eliminated between the student affairs office and athletics. In athletics, that amounts to vacancies that will go unfilled, including an assistant athletic director.

Meanwhile, a few programs and centers have been restructured and even scrapped.

At Mizzou, for example, the Truman School of Public Affairs is becoming part of the College of Arts and Sciences rather than a stand-alone school.

Cuts at the system headquarters were among the more controversial and unexpected announcements, including the elimination of the federal lobbying office in Washington, which will provide $7.4 million to use strategically at the campus level.

Choi also laid off the entire Missouri lobbying team and most of his communications personnel, along with the longtime vice chancellor of university relations, Steve Knorr.

Choi addressed the lobbying issue briefly, saying that he expecteds to hire new lobbyists after spending the next two to three weeks working with legislative leaders and Gov. Eric Greitens to gain input on how to rebuild that team.

A few other high-level administrative positions that were cut include the vice president of academic affairs, research and economic development, and the executive vice chancellor for MU Health.

Choi told the Post-Dispatch that those positions were being rolled into his job at no additional salary.