Updated at 5 p.m. with UM System tuition proposal — The University of Missouri-St. Louis is on pace to close its $15 million dollar budget deficit ahead of schedule.
UMSL’s top financial officer told administrators this week that the school should finish the fiscal year, which ends June 30, about $500,000 in the black instead of being $3.6 million over budget.
“We’ve just been clawing and scratching at it,” Vice Chancellor for Finance Rick Baniak told St. Louis Public Radio.
A year ago, the college cut 85 positions, a majority of them through layoffs, which recouped much of that deficit. But then the budget gap grew when Republican Gov. Eric Greitens withheld $4.3 million from the school’s budget in January.
Another way the university closed the gap was consolidating open positions so there’d be fewer staff members and through attrition, as well as holding off on building upgrades, he said.
“There were things we would have liked to do, but in light of the budget year we just didn’t do,” he said.
While UMSL was able to find more savings by not spending as much, Baniak said, it did put some more money toward growing some programs and not making cuts that directly affected “student experience.”
There are still challenges ahead for UMSL, as the University of Missouri System is requesting recommendations from its four campuses for ways to further reduce costs due to an expected drop in state aid for the coming fiscal year.
Greitens and the House have recommended a 9 percent reduction in higher ed spending, while the Senate’s budget plan knocks that amount down to 6.5 percent. The funding will be reconciled in the coming week, so the final amount is unclear.
The UM System is proposing raising tuition and required fees of in-state undergraduates by 2.1 percent for the fiscal year that begins in July.
The Kansas City Star reported Thursday that system officials consider the increases "modest" and say they'd generate $14.4 million in revenues. The administrators cite "significant financial and budgetary pressures" on the campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla.
Tuition and fees at Columbia would rise by $199 per semester, while students at the Kansas City campus would increase by $192.
Enrollment at the Columbia campus for the 2016-17 academic year dropped by 2,182 from last year. That's a 6.2 percent decline and the lowest enrollment since 2010.
The system's governing board will vote on the proposals next month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
The University of Missouri’s Board of Curators holds the license for St. Louis Public Radio.
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney.