WARRENSBURG, Mo. (AP) — The University of Central Missouri plans to increase its focus on retaining students to help them get to graduation as part of its plans to respond to deep cuts in its budget, president Charles Ambrose said.

The university in Warrensburg reduced more than $20 million from its budget last year after declines in state funding and enrollment of international students. Gov. Eric Greitens has proposed another $159 million in state cuts to higher education this year, which could cost Central Missouri another $5.6 million in cuts in 2018-19, The Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal reported .

Ambrose said university officials will give students at risk of not completing their degrees more attention and resources. He said two out of three students are in categories that are considered at risk of dropping out to college before graduation. Improving graduation rates with those students would help the students and the school's budget, he said. The current retention rate is 72 percent.

"We want to get our retention level up to the highest level - 80 percent," he said. "If that happens, then the resources will be there."

The school already has programs in place to help retention, such as a center that uses "Intrusive advising." The center looks for students who have not declared a major because that is a main risk factors for students leaving school.

Ambrose said the budget cuts will mean up to 150 school positions could be impacted, with open positions being absorbed and early retirement as methods to reach that target. And some of the university's departments and programs will be restructured.

"The more impact a program has - you're going to be stronger from a resource allocation based on how you perform," he said. "There will be some structural support that will make some people uncomfortable on the front end."

Ambrose said the changes should help control the costs of tuition, saying tuition hikes to cover funding losses are "counterproductive."

The next three months will be intense because of the changes, he said.

"There's only going to be some of us (in higher education) that will emerge from this going on offense," Ambrose said. "We want UCM to be one of them."


Information from: Daily Star-Journal, http://www.dailystarjournal.com,