Northwest Missouri State University’s Board of Regents during its regular meeting June 15 unanimously approved the university’s 2023-24 budget totaling nearly $110 million.

The budget includes strategic investments and scholarship funding to assist students as well as investments in employees through cost-of-living adjustments and health and retirement benefits. The budget also reflects projected enrollment increases and state appropriations approved by the Missouri legislature.

`Presenting the budget proposal to the Regents, Vice President of Finance and Administration Stacy Carrick outlined strategic enrollment as a top priority for Northwest in its budget projections. With that in mind, the FY24 budget includes strategic investments in programming and faculty and staff as well as program investments in dining spaces related to the university’s new partnership with Sodexo.

Regents’ approval of the budget follows their March approval of the university’s 2023-24 tuition and fees, which amount to an estimated average net tuition increase of 3.3 percent for in-state undergraduate students and an estimated average net increase of four percent for out-of-state undergraduate students. Northwest meal plans, however, will decrease by 17.2 percent in alignment with the university’s new dining contract.

Agricultural sciences facility upgrades

Regents approved plans for a micro-creamery to be housed within Northwest’s Agricultural Learning Center, giving the School of Agricultural Sciences an opportunity to enhance profession-based learning for its students and the potential to one day offer milk and other dairy products to consumers.

Regents approved the project with costs not to exceed $3 million and authorized University President Dr. Lance Tatum and Carrick to complete a contract with a selected bidder.

“We’re very, very excited about what this could add to our curriculum and what it can do for our students and their experience and their profession-based learning,” Provost Dr. Jamie Hooyman, who presented the proposal, said to Regents.

The proposal is based on the university’s desire to help improve the state’s dairy industry by offering expanded education and training opportunities for regional producers and agriculture students.

Where dwindling dairy herds, poor commodity prices and a sizeable labor gap of skilled dairy workers have stressed Missouri’s dairy industry, Northwest is seeking to address those industry challenges by developing a fully functional micro-creamery at its RT Wright Farm and Agricultural Learning Center.

Northwest maintains a dairy herd of approximately 70 cattle at the farm, which is used to teach agriculture students about dairy health, management and collection. A lack of processing facilities at Northwest, however, means students’ profession-based learning ends after the collected milk leaves the farm.

The proposed project will remedy that gap, allowing students and regional producers to experience the entire lifecycle of dairy production, from herd management and collection through processing, food production, safety testing and potentially even the marketing and retail of fluid milk, ice cream, butter, cheeses or other dairy products.

Additionally, the Regents approved a revised budget for the university’s renovation of the McKemy Center for Lifelong Learning to accommodate its systems management for manufacturing and agribusiness program.

Hooyman explained to Regents that Northwest received additional grant funding for the project that allows the university to expand programming and training and purchase additional equipment, increasing the overall project costs to not more than $2.2 million.

New president provides thanks

The Regents meeting was the first since Tatum began his tenure as Northwest’s president on June 1.

In his remarks, Tatum thanked members of the Northwest Leadership Team, staff, faculty and Regent members for helping him begin to understand the university’s culture and processes.

“Let me just say thank you to everyone for making the first two weeks of my tenure here at Northwest the most rewarding two weeks of my professional career,” Tatum said. “I’ve got 29-plus years in higher education, and there hasn’t been a moment within the last 15 days that people have not been receptive to my questions or really worked as hard as they could to help me understand.”

Tatum added, “I don’t think there’s any major part of the university that I haven’t met in some way. I’ve had the great experience of walking around campus and meeting individuals who are serving our students every day, and I couldn’t be more proud of what I’ve already been exposed to.”

Tatum concluded his remarks by saying he is forming a transition team that will begin meeting later this month to help him further understand the institution. Additionally, he and his wife, Jill, are finalizing their move from their home in Alabama to Maryville next week.

Other business

In other business, Regents authorized the university’s use of auxiliary reserve funds, not to exceed $4.5 million, for its demolition this summer of North Complex and Phillips Hall residence halls as well as a project to repair and replace shower systems in South Complex. The Regents had approved $4.3 million as a total cost for the projects last December, but the total was adjusted based on bids the university received.

Also approved, effective immediately, was an updated academic petitions policy that includes the recent addition of a student persistence committee, which meets twice a month to hear appeals regarding course withdrawals and academic suspensions and dismissals.

Regents authorized the appointments of three additional adjuncts to teach during the summer 2023 term and 240 full-time faculty for the 2023-24 academic year.

This meeting was the last for John Moore in his role as Regents chair, and he did not seek reelection. Per its bylaws, the Regents conducted its biennial election of officers, electing Roxanna Swaney as chair and Mel Tjeerdsma as vice chair. Additionally, Regents reappointed Diane Hargrave, executive secretary in the office of the provost, as board secretary and Carrick as board treasurer.

Recognitions were bestowed upon the Bearcat Track and Field coaching staff, Joe Quinlin, Garrison Kennedy and Denise Workman.

Reports were given by the leaders of staff council, foundation and the president.