Officials delay request for university merger

Saturday, September 27, 2003

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The presidents of Northwest Missouri State University and the University of Missouri system said Friday they will delay asking the legislature to consider a merger.

However, the institutions will form what was dubbed a "strategic partnership" while officials continue to work out the details of making the Maryville campus the fifth campus of the University of Missouri system.

The partnership, according to a news release, would allow the institutions to "gain experience working together on projects that would evolve naturally from a merger, including economic development initiatives in the Northwest region, joint graduate program offerings and joint applications for research grants and contracts."

The joint statement was released one day after Northwest Missouri State president Dean L. Hubbard told faculty and staff in a letter that the institutions had decided that introducing merger legislation in January was "unrealistic" because of the complexity of negotiations.

"It is not in the interest of either side to rush into something of this magnitude without answering as many questions as can possibly be answered," Hubbard wrote.

He said Friday that two main issues had to be resolved before the institutions could seek approval from their separate governing boards. One issue, he said, is benefits, which are handled differently at each of the institutions. The institutions also are grappling with how money that goes to the system would be distributed to Northwest Missouri and the other campuses.

"I don't see anything that has come up that isn't solvable," Hubbard said. He said the merger would likely be presented to the Legislature in 2005.

Both Hubbard and system president Elson S. Floyd agreed there is little precedent for merging two public universities.

"We are pursuing something that has never been done before, and that is the voluntary merger of two public universities," Floyd said. "Given the complicated issues that attend such a bold step, it is not surprising that this proposal is unique."

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