Missouri State University (MSU) made significant strides at its campuses in West Plains and Springfield during the 2021-2022 academic year, but issues involving enrollment and its impact on the budget will need to be addressed moving forward.
Those were the messages given by MSU President Clif Smart and MSU-West Plains (MSU-WP) Chancellor Dennis Lancaster during the annual state of the university address Oct. 7 at Hass-Darr Hall in West Plains.
Much to celebrate
Smart said there was much to celebrate from the past year. The MSU Foundation set a new record in fund raising, collecting over $32 million in donations. More than $1 million of that was earmarked for MSU-WP. A naming gift from Great Southern Bank for the arena will allow the university to fully meet the late John Q. Hammons commitment on the facility.
A combination of $50 million in federal funding and $30 million in state funding awarded to the university will allow the Springfield campus to move forward with phase 1 of its renovation and expansion of STEM facilities, Smart said.
Another $1.25 million in MoEXCELS funding from the state for the West Plains campus will go toward the construction of a hospital simulation lab for the nursing department. A separate $7.5 million state allocation to MSU-WP will be used to build a facility for the new ASCEND Program for students with autism, he pointed out
MSU also received a 5.4% increase in state appropriations for its operating budget and more than $16 million in other federal, state and local funding to go toward such capital projects as the Jordan Valley Innovation Center braider and Grant Street underpass in Springfield and the hospital simulation lab and ASCEND facility in West Plains, Smart said.
Employees receive pay increases
To help retain the best and brightest workers, university employees were given a 4% across-the-board pay increase in July, Smart noted, and full-time employees who were hired before April and still working for the university in December will receive a $1,000 retention payment in their December paycheck.
The university also increased its minimum wage to $15 an hour and paid $661,000 in faculty promotion and equity increases and $630,000 in staff equity adjustments. New revenues from state appropriations and tuition covered these increases, Smart said.
Addressing enrollment, budget issues
The university, however, will need to address a decrease in enrollment during the current fiscal year, Smart said. While graduate student, international student and dual credit enrollment was up at the Springfield campus this fall, undergraduate enrollment was down significantly, resulting in an overall 1.3% decrease in overall head count.
Even more significant was a 3.6% decrease in total credit hours, which will result in a $6 million decrease in revenues this year, he added. Although the university has taken some measures to mitigate the impact, university officials will have to reexamine recruiting strategies, explore new markets, develop and expand partnerships, reassess retention efforts, start new programs and invest in programs with the potential to grow, and reinvigorate underperforming programs, he said.
Leading that charge is newly hired Executive Vice President Zora Mulligan, Smart said. The West Plains native who has extensive experience in higher education attended the meeting and was treated to a reception afterward.
Highlights at MSU-WP
In his remarks, Lancaster said MSU-WP also saw a decrease in enrollment this fall, primarily due to a significant drop in the number of high school students taking dual credit courses for the first time this fall. It’s anticipated this decrease will have a $160,000 impact on revenues for the year. University officials will watch enrollment closely in the spring to see if any measures need to be taken to control spending further.
The good news, Lancaster said, is that the number of students continuing their studies at MSU-WP increased 2%, and the number of first-time full-time freshmen increased 1.5%. In addition, students enrolled full time this fall took 1.7% more credit hours. The implementation of new programs and initiatives, such welding, softball, esports and ASCEND, made a direct impact on the number of first-time full-time freshmen, he explained.
Looking ahead, Lancaster said officials MSU-WP also will be taking the same approach as their counterparts in Springfield to grow revenue through new strategies, partnerships and programs. Officials also will be preparing for an accreditation site visit by the Higher Learning Commission in fall 2023; growing workforce development programs, expanding several current programs, and implementing new programs such as a new law enforcement training program; and growing and developing partnerships, to name a few.
Ultimately, Lancaster said, MSU-WP’s focus will continue to be on student success and developing and implementing the programs and procedures to facilitate that success. To accomplish this mission will take everyone – faculty, staff, administrators, donors and community partners – pulling together for the common good.