The University of Missouri will close three more residence halls to undergraduate students next year amid concerns over budget cuts and a drop in enrollment.
Discovery, Responsibility and Center Hall will close "until they are needed," MU News Bureau associate director Liz McCune told ABC 17 News.
She said the move is designed to "ensure that we are maximizing the space we have and being as efficient as possible with our resources."
The closure of the three residence halls brings the total number of closed residence halls to seven. They are Respect, Responsibility, Discovery, Excellence, Schurz, McDavid and Center.
McCune said officials are closing the halls to "make sure we have the flexibility necessary whether the numbers are low or high."
If the numbers are low, MU will not have to operate halls that are not full, and if the numbers are high, the halls will be reopened to accommodate demand, McCune said. She added that the university is opening a new 279-bed hall for the 2017-2018 school year.
As ABC 17 News previously reported, enrollment at Mizzou has continued to drop following the 2015 protests that made national headlines. The school started in fall 2015 with 35,448 students, the highest enrollment in five years. As of January 2017, MU had 31,010 students, its lowest point since spring 2011.
At last month's faculty council meeting, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and MU provost Dr. Garnett S. Stokes said officials are still waiting on a more reliable indicator of what enrollment numbers will be in the fall. She said the attractors for Mizzou are different, so it's difficult to predict enrollment numbers.
"What we're dealing with is unprecedented," Stokes said of budget cuts by the state.
Gov. Eric Greitens' proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year cuts funding for higher education by more than $100 million. The University of Missouri System's share of the state's current FY2017 budget withholds is $37 million. UM System President Dr. Mun Choi has said that he expects $57 million in cuts to permanent funding.
A letter sent to MU faculty and staff earlier this week said addressing the financial challengers "will require an overall budget cut between 8 percent and 12 percent throughout the University of Missouri System." It said the system cannot rely on reserve funds to solve problems created by permanent budget reductions.
College, division or department leaders at MU have until April 28 to decide how they will supply their portion of the reserve funds that will be use to make up the university's $20 million shortfall in its current budget.