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LU faces challenge to improve business conditions

LU faces challenge to improve business conditions

December 22nd, 2013 in News

Lincoln University President Kevin Rome has said the recent reorganization that resulted in the loss of several vice presidents' jobs and reassigning some other employees to new or redesigned positions was driven mainly by the school's budget and enrollment situations.

"We (have) about 200 students less than we anticipated," Rome told the News Tribune earlier this month, "which is a significant amount of money in our budget."

Using figures the school reported to the state Higher Education department, it's clear to some that Lincoln's enrollment needs to be improved.

Between Fall 2005 and Fall 2012, the Jefferson City school's total enrollment ranged from a low of 3,109 in 2008 to 2011's high of 3,388.

Lincoln's best enrollment ever was 4,101 students in Fall 1991.

Several years ago, former LU President Carolyn Mahoney set an enrollment goal of between 5,000 and 6,000 total students.

Rome said a week ago that remains the goal.

Of the enrollments during the past few years, the bulk of those students are undergraduates, with a low of 2,928 students in 2006 and 2011's high of 3,192.

In Fall 2012, the most recent numbers reported to the state Higher Education department, LU had 3,013 undergraduate students.

Lincoln also has a graduate program offering several master's degrees.

Its highest enrollment recently was 296 students in 2006, with a low of 172 two years later. Last year, LU had 192 graduate students in the fall semester.

As noted in last Sunday's story about LU's efforts to improve those numbers, Rome noted Lincoln has hired an outside service to help with "how we recruit, where we recruit and, probably, a better marketing of the institution."

Getting more students to come to Lincoln - and stay through their graduation - will add more money to LU's income.

Again, based on the numbers reported to the Higher Education department - and, partly because of agreements with Gov. Jay Nixon after he took office in 2009 - Lincoln has raised tuition only a few times since 2007, when the school charged undergraduate students who also were Missouri residents $154 a credit hour.

Then, Lincoln charged the fourth-lowest in-state tuition rate among Missouri's 13 state-owned four-year college campuses - higher only than Missouri Southern State University, Joplin ($130 credit hour); Northwest Missouri State, Maryville ($142); and Harris-Stowe State, St. Louis ($154).

In 2007, Truman State, Kirksville, charged the most - $229/credit hour - while the University of Missouri's four campuses (Columbia, Rolla, Kansas City and St. Louis) all charged $227.

Nixon in 2009 negotiated a tuition freeze with those colleges, and Lincoln's undergraduate tuition was $190 for each credit hour for the 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years.

This year - 2013-14 - Lincoln's undergraduate, in-state tuition rate has risen to $205/credit hour, which is seventh among the 13 campuses.

This year's lowest rate is $173.22/credit hour at Missouri Southern, while the highest charges are $315.80/credit hour, at two University of Missouri campuses, in St. Louis and Rolla (now called Missouri University of Science and Technology).

Lincoln and the other schools also have raised fees over that eight-year period.

LU's average per-semester fees for a full-time student in the 2005-06 school year were $200.

That has grown to $343.95 this year.

LU Curator Greg Gaffke of Jefferson City has said several times - only partly in jest - that Lincoln and other state-owned colleges and universities really are more "state-contributed" schools than "state-supported" ones.

Lincoln's state funding has remained relatively flat over the past decade, with a total state appropriation of $17,298,105 in the 2002-03 state business year - which dropped to a low of $16,360,445 the following year.

The highest state contribution since Fall 2002 came in the 2008-09 business year: $19,780,813.

But, just two years later, the state's appropriation was down to $16,690,512 - third lowest of the period.

Like other schools, Lincoln's operating costs generally run more than twice the state appropriation - and are higher than the combination of state budget and tuition incomes.

Rome noted earlier that payroll is among any college's biggest expenses.

Lincoln had a total of 413 employees in Fall 2005 - including 135 faculty members and 31 administrators.

In 2010 - the most recent numbers reported by the state Higher Education department - those numbers had climbed to 492 total employees, including 160 faculty and 36 administrators.

In 2005, the overall average salary for all those jobs was $43,250.

The highest average for the 2005-2010 period was $50,959 in 2007.

In 2010, that average had dropped to $50,135 - slightly higher than the 2009 average of $50,015.

Rome has said the job terminations and changes acknowledged before Thanksgiving are expected to save more than $200,000 in the spring semester, and closer to $500,000 in pay and benefits over a whole year.

Like other schools, Rome said Lincoln must look more to outside funding, through grants and donations, and he's working with the LU Foundation to get more contributions from alumni and from various businesses and grant-making groups.

"We're fortunate that our shortfall isn't millions of dollars," Rome said last week. "In the long run, Lincoln is going to be OK."