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story.lead_photo.caption State Technical College of Missouri is located in Linn. Photo by State Technical College of Missouri

State Technical College of Missouri in Linn will not have a spring break in 2021 because of COVID-19, but despite state budget restrictions caused by the pandemic, the college's employees will get a 3 percent raise.

Those developments resulted from a meeting Friday morning of State Tech's Board of Regents.

"We're probably the first Missouri school to pull the trigger" on canceling spring break, State Tech President Shawn Strong said.

Strong expects every other school will do the same, however, and he said it was better to change the calendar early before a change would interrupt people's vacation plans or hotel bookings for graduation.

With the calendar change, State Tech will start the spring semester Jan. 5 and end one week early, with graduation set for May 1.

Canceling spring break is about limiting students' and faculty's possible exposure to COVID-19.

"The decision to cancel spring break hedges on the belief that we will still be dealing with COVID-19 next March. I hope I am wrong, but it just doesn't look like we will be to a place where we feel comfortable sending students off campus for a full week right before the end of the semester rush," Strong said in a news release after the meeting.

Though the pandemic has led to state budget withholds and affected enrollment — and the resulting flow of tuition and fee income — throughout higher education across the state and nation, State Tech reported a 14 percent increase in its enrollment this year over last, following several consecutive years of enrollment growth.

Strong said that's allowed for State Tech to give its employees — except for adjunct faculty and himself — a 3 percent pay raise.

The raise will be to employees' base salary, and a lump sum payment in October will cover the next eight months, Nov. 1 through June 30.

After that, Strong said, the 3 percent raise will be an ongoing expense of $275,000 in the college's budget.

"We have been diligent about looking at our state (appropriations) money as 'one-time money,' or a funding source that we can't control, and tuition as 'reoccurring money' that we can control and use to give raises. The cut in state appropriation has hit us hard with regard to one-time expenses, like maintenance, and will definitely impact our ability to continue to grow. At the same time, it is so important to take care of the employees that make us the best two-year college in the country," Strong said in a statement.

The state withheld more than $219,000 from State Tech at the start of the current fiscal year — part of a much broader set of nearly $450 million in state budget restrictions, including to colleges, universities and many state departments.

State Tech's Board of Regents also on Friday approved a $100,000 increase to the college's marketing budget.

The board also approved a new degree option in power generation technology. The program would be similar to the college's nuclear technology program, but would involve other forms of energy production such as gas, coal and possibly wind or other sources.

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