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Dec 11, 2014 02:32 PM EST

Ferguson: University of Missouri St.Louis Freezes Hiring, Cites Ferguson Unrest

The University of Missouri-St. Louis has enacted a hiring freeze due to "smaller-than-expected" student enrollment that campus officials believe is linked to the fatal police shooting in nearby Ferguson, Reuters reported.

In a campuswide email, Chancellor Thomas George said the North County-based university went into the school year with a budget shortfall of $2 million, "but a projected enrollment increase for the fall would have taken care of that," KDSK News reported.

However, after the Aug. 9 shooting death in Ferguson of 18-year-old Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson enrollment took a hit and the debt remains at the university. The campus is 4 miles from where Wilson shot the 18-year-old.

George believes this is the result of a "widespread anxiety about the region in general and North (St. Louis) County in particular," The Associated Press reported.  

"Misplaced though it may be, it is a perception affecting the community and [The University of Missouri-St. Louis]," George added.

The hiring freeze, which is effective immediately, includes full-time faculty and staff positions.

University spokesman Bob Samples told the AP that some new and returning students have decided not to enroll because of the police shooting, which took place two weeks before classes started.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis, which currently has about 12,000 students enrolled, expects to have 600 fewer students in the upcoming spring semester compared with spring 2014. In the fall semester, two weeks after Wilson shot Brown, a projected 4 percent enrollment increase turned out to be just a 1 percent boost, the AP reported.

"Throughout the recent events facing the St. Louis region, UMSL (University of Missouri-St. Louis) has clearly been on the forefront of seeking solutions, while carefully maintaining the reality of a safe and secure campus," George said in his email.

George said staff is pushing hard to increase enrollment before the spring 2015 semester starts.

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