The University of Missouri System’s incentive program for its top executives is being terminated just a few days after a state audit found the program lacked transparency.
New UM System President Mun Choi acknowledged the current program’s lack of transparency was a part of his decision to end it, but he also said paying “the market rate” for administrators is key to the university’s overall success.
“We cannot have a university that focuses on excellence by only cost cutting,” he told reporters Friday at a news conference.
Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway’s report highlighted $2.3 million in bonuses and perks given to 18 top university officials during the past two years, in an audit her office published Monday. She said that money was given out with little oversight.
Compensation for top administrators is not going away, Choi said, but the program will be changed so it has better benchmarks to earn bonuses. Choi is less than two weeks into his role as the head of the largest public university in Missouri. He said there were “lessons learned” from the audit.
“There’s nothing to hide,” Choi said, even though many of the bonuses don’t appear on public salary documents, according to the audit. The people who received the retention awards and stipends will not be asked to return them, Choi said.
The revelation of bonuses clashes with claims from university leaders that the system has decreased spending as much as possible. It also comes amid a proposed major cut in state funding from the governor, which Choi called “unsustainable.”
To offset the reduced funding, the system’s Board of Curators discussed seeking a waiver from state leaders so it can raise tuition beyond the rate of inflation. When asked, Choi wouldn’t say if the audit’s findings will hurt the university’s ability to convince state leaders to allow an increase.
Choi is in the process of meeting with campus leaders to discuss strategies to save money and boost revenue. Eliminating unpopular academic programs is a likely move, Choi said. He also said he wouldn’t rule out layoffs.
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