Missouri

UM System President Mun Choi refuses pay raise on contract extension

New university system President Mun Choi receives warm welcome at UMKC

The University of Missouri System President-designate Mun Choi received a warm welcome on his first visit to Kansas City during a welcome rally in 2017 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
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The University of Missouri System President-designate Mun Choi received a warm welcome on his first visit to Kansas City during a welcome rally in 2017 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

University of Missouri President Mun Choi has accepted an offer to extend his contract into 2024 but turned down an accompanying salary increase.

Choi, who has been at the helm of the university for a year, will continue to be paid $530,000 a year.

The UM Board of Curators on Friday voted unanimously to extend Choi’s contract to June 30, 2024 — two years beyond the current contract’s expiration date. 

“That is a commitment of President Choi to this board and this institution,” board chair David Steelman said after the meeting in Springfield.

Choi said he declined to take a salary increase because the university, which has been struggling with budget problems, needed to increase salaries of underpaid faculty. He said he wanted faculty to know he is developing a five-year plan to raise pay.

After a nine-month national search, Choi was hired in late 2016 from his previous position as provost at the University of Connecticut. He officially started work the following February.

Choi, the first UM System president of Asian-American heritage, replaced Tim Wolfe, who resigned in November 2015 following racially charged student protests, a student hunger strike and claims that Wolfe had failed to take action against multiple displays of racism at MU, the system’s flagship campus in Columbia.

Part of Choi’s challenge was to help the university restore its reputation and brand. In the aftermath of the protest the Columbia campus saw a significant drop in enrollment and faced challenging cuts to state funding.

The year after the protests, incoming freshman enrollment dropped below 5,000 students for the first time since 2007. And last year’s freshmen enrollment of 4,134 students was the lowest in more than a decade.

In the spring MU reported that the latest enrollment figures indicate the university will see about a 13 percent increase in enrollment. The other three Missouri campuses also have seen enrollment go up.

One of the first actions by Choi was to cut $101 million and 474 jobs from the four Missouri campuses. Leaders said the money saved would be reinvested in new hires, better campus security and strategies for increasing enrollment, including scholarships.

In May the curators had approved a 2.1 percent tuition hike, but Choi and other campus leaders decided to charge only 1 percent more as part of a deal with legislators who agreed to spare another $70 million in cuts.

Earlier this month the university announced that its fundraising has broken records — climbing to $1.063 billion, indicating the university may be well into a sound mending.

“Under his watch, the university has found new and innovative ways to save money, improved the climate for our faculty, staff and students; and repaired relationships with our elected officials,” Steelman said. “We want to make sure he stays at the university for years to come.”

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