Tough economic times call for study of student fee allocation

Nathan Zoschke

As Missouri braces for additional revenue shortfalls next year, the University Budget Committee (UBC) has begun a feasibility study of how UMKC supports its central administration through the general fund.

The study will look at key departments such as Athletics and Student Affairs, which receive $8.5 and $3.9 million respectively from the general fund. Each administrative unit included will conduct its own study, which will be reported to the UBC toward the end of the fall semester.

A recommendation to reconvene the Committee on Organizational Structure and Community Outreach (COSCO) to study the cost of Athletics was made last spring by the Faculty Senate.

Dr. Gary Ebersole,Chair of the Faculty Senate and History Department, said this will be the first time the Faculty Senate has looked into the cost of the Athletics program in 15 years.

Minutes from the April 19 meeting noted “expressions of concern regarding the cost value” of UMKC’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I program, including a suggestion “that it might be time to move back to Division II or Division III.”

COSCO’s involvement was not pursued after Faculty Senate Budget Committee Chair Tony Luppino, Associate Professor of Law, proposed that the athletics study be conducted through the UBC.

The chances of Athletics dropping a division appear unlikely.

“That question has been around long enough that they’re having the study,” said Luppino, who was not in attendance at the April meeting. “But I cannot say that anyone has said there’s an issue at the table.”

Ebersole reiterated Luppino’s statements.

“It [dropping a division] was never something that has been seriously looked at,” Ebersole said. “Over the years, there have been people who have groused about the move to Division I.”

Ebersole said the study was suggested to help determine where to allocate the school’s increasingly limited state funding.

“We will have to look at every unit on campus, including every school and all of our support units, and I think Athletics is in that mix, too,” Ebersole said.

State support, which has declined in recent years, is one of two sources of revenue for the general fund.

The other is tuition, which cannot be increased above 3 percent of the current Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate without permission from the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

“In a good year, we might be able to just stay in place [in terms of funding],” Ebersole said. “But at best we’re just treading water. It’s one of those situations where we’ve been cannibalizing ourselves for the past eight years. We’ve been cutting internally for so long that there’s no fat and we’re into muscle.”

Aside from Athletics, the UBC study will also examine student fees.

Mel Tyler, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, said he is organizing a group of students to review activity fees, the group will consist of students from SGA and the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Committee.

“I want to pull a group together and develop a plan on how we should align our fees with universities we compare ourselves to,” Tyler said.

This will also overlap with the study of the Athletics Department, which is also subsidized through student activity fees.

Students’ activity fees per credit hour, which are capped at 12 credits, are $4.52 for the student activity fees budget and $4.55 for student athletics fees.

Although all student activity fees are set by Student Affairs, the departments to receive student fee allocations are accountable for how they are spent.

Specific details of what the feasibility study will entail are still being worked out.

However, the study will also suggest which areas to allocate future revenue as well as cuts.

Athletic Director Tim Hall said his department is hoping to expand its budget.

“Part of the [feasibility study] will talk about the financial challenges of going from NAIA [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics] to NCAA that have plagued us over time,” Hall said. “It will also look at the commitment that [former Chancellor] Guy Bailey had to build a comprehensive successful athletics programs and knowing to do that, he had to increase our resources, both human and capital.”

Specific challenges Hall mentioned include increasing travel expenses and meeting the NCAA certification requirements.

“We’re in a league that’s geographically diverse,” Hall said, adding that “the NCAA certification process is also one of the most rigorous in all of higher education.”

“There needs to be a campus dialogue in terms of what the athletic budget should look like and this needs to be done in a manner no different from other auxiliary expenses,” Hall said.

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