Local colleges make changes to tuition, salaries during coronavirus pandemic

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Federal, state and local leaders are now looking at when, and how to loosen restrictions and re-open businesses, but the stay-at-home orders are having a deep financial impact on our colleges and universities.

Both Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College are missing out on millions of dollars in state funding.

Missouri State University lost $7.6 million in funding from the state. On top of that, when the campus shut down because of the coronavirus, the school had to pay millions more back to its students.

As coronavirus cases began rising, Missouri State University closed its buildings and sent students home for the rest of the semester. The assistant to President Clif Smart said that cost the university big time.

“We started seeing a series of revenue challenges associated with the coronavirus,” said Ryan DeBoef.

According to DeBoef, with no more students living in dorms, MSU is paying back $3.5 million dollars in housing costs and more than $1 million in meal plans.

“All of those things, while obviously the right thing to do to make our students whole on the situation, came with revenue challenges, came with money that was lost that the university had already received and had budgeted,” DeBoef said.

On top of that, the university expects to lose about $900,000 in revenue while offering only online classes this summer. Now the school is searching for ways to balance the budget.

“Today, we announced that a incentive package for our faculty that paid them extra money when they deliver online classes, we have eliminated for the summer,” DeBoef said.

According to the university, removing that incentive payment to professors should save the school $700,000 of the $900,000 it anticipates losing.

Nearly 100 employees at MSU are taking two-thirds of their normal pay.

“The work that they typically do doesn’t need done right now with the campus being empty of most students,” DeBoef said.

The university has imposed a hiring freeze and has cancelled about 70% of its already planned construction projects.

President Clif Smart is taking a pay cut during the summer months, along with other school leaders.

Ozarks Technical Community College doesn’t have any dorms, so it did not have to refund any student housing payments, but the college is still losing about $1.15 million it normally gets from the state.

“So then we were kind of at a position where we’ve got to do something, so we raised tuition but we only raised in district tuition,” said Mark Miller.

Miller, OTC’s Director of Communications, said classes will cost either $3 or $4 more per credit hour, depending on the subject. He said the college is also anticipating a potential drop in enrollment for next year.

“It’s kind of one of those situations where we plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he said.

Classes at OTC will stay all online through the summer as well. The college is changing its online course fees.

“We eliminated that $65 online fee for just online courses but did raise the student technology fee so it is a savings for the online student but everybody will share in that cost because we’ve seen, with COVID-19, now every class has an online component,” Miller said.

OTC is also offering a retirement incentive for faculty who are eligible to retire. Miller said anyone already eligible can retire and receive $500 for every year they’ve worked for the college, up to 20 years, or get two years of healthcare paid for.

“It’s just maybe to get somebody who is at a higher salary, is eligible to retire, through our state retirement system, that they would take that retirement,” Miller said.

Last time OTC offered the retirement incentive was a few years ago, according to Miller, and about 10 people took advantage. Miller said it saved about $100,000.

Miller said there was an expectation that community colleges across the state would receive increases in funding from the state this year.

“The cut on top of no increase is a little bit of a double whammy whereas, our four-year friends, they got an increase last year, so they got a cut, compared to two years ago, they’re still ahead,” he said.

Both Miller and DeBoef say, their schools are facing uncertainty, but they’re more worried about students’ success.

“They’re just doing their best to make it through this, just like everybody is,” Miller said.

“We have a university to run but what’s more important is that we have students to educate, we have a workforce to develop which is more important than ever as we try to emerge from this pandemic,” DeBoef said.

MSU’s board has not considered raising tuition rates yet, but DeBoef said that will be a topic of conversation in the coming months.

For more explanation on OTC’s tuition changes, click HERE.

For more on how MSU is handling the situation, click HERE

— to www.ky3.com

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