By Melissa Dunson
Things may be looking up for Missouri Southern State University’s bottom line.
During the Board of Governors’ monthly meeting Friday, university officials reported that enrollment this semester is up 133 students from the same time last year. That trend could continue in the fall, according to the admissions department. The university already has 748 new and re-admitted students enrolled for the fall semester. That is an increase of more than 100 students compared with last year.
“It’s encouraging, but not necessarily accurate,” said John Messick, MSSU vice president of academic affairs. “We have three more weeks before our official census and a second drop date coming up.”
In another piece of good news, Linda Eis, the university’s treasurer, said MSSU has $165,000 more in cash compared with the same period last year. Much of that, she said, can be attributed to recent cost-cutting measures showing up in utility savings.
MSSU President Bruce Speck also gave the board an update on other cost-saving measures recently put into effect.
Speck recently modified the way faculty members are paid for teaching summer classes in an effort to make all those classes financially self-supporting. The current system of paying faculty members a percentage of their normal 10-month contracted salary will continue as long as the number of students enrolled in a summer class is enough to cover it.
In situations where the class has a few students, the faculty member will be compensated a lesser amount.
Messick said that change would have saved the college more than $126,000 last summer.
Speck is also changing the way faculty members are paid for teaching online courses. Since MSSU started offering Internet classes, faculty members have been paid for teaching the class, and received an additional bonus per credit hour for each student over the 20-student threshold.
Under the new formula, faculty members will still receive a bonus, but the threshold has been raised to 30 students and the bonus per credit hour is less.
Messick said that change would have saved the university an estimated $187,000 last year.
And Speck is still looking for ways to reduce the university’s costs in the face of a $340 million state budget shortfall that is sure to have local ramifications. Missouri Southern has already been asked by the state to anticipate impacts of 15, 20 or 25 percent budget cuts.
For the past six months, administrators have been drafting a proposal to revise the MSSU scholarship policy. Currently, the university allows students to “stack” several scholarships to receive more money than the cost of tuition. In those cases, the university has been writing checks to students for any amount left over after fees are paid.
The proposed revision to the scholarship policy would eliminate many of those excess payments. This is all part of an effort to reduce the amount of the college’s budget that goes to scholarships from 25 percent to about 19 percent.
The board will review the proposed changes and vote on them at a later meeting. Speck said no students who have been promised scholarships will have those taken away.
The board also heard a preliminary proposal to lower out-of-state tuition for students from bordering counties in Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas to less than the current out-of-state rate of double regular tuition, but more than in-state tuition. It would help in recruiting students from those neighboring counties, Speck said, and is similar to what other area colleges and universities offer.
Speck will bring a more formal proposal to the board at a later meeting. If approved, the tuition change could go into effect as soon as the fall semester.
The Institute of International Studies has also taken on additional responsibilities for recruiting international students, Speck said. He gave the department the charge late last fall as its budget was being cut and the department needed to prove its usefulness. Speck said in that short time, the department attracted five new international students to the campus this semester.
The next MSSU Board of Governors meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, in the television studio, Room 157, of Webster Hall at the campus.
By Melissa Dunson