Missouri’s colleges and universities have been stunned with orders to plan for funding of as much as one-fourth of their state support.
Higher education took some big hits during the economic downturn during the Holden administration…and was just getting funding back to the amounts it had gotten in 2001—with adjustments for inflation—and now comes word from state budget officials that this economic downturn could hit them again.
Deputy Higher Education Commissioner Paul Wagner says he has watched Missouri’s economy slide and was expecting a request to plan for cuts. But he says the message he and higher education got this time was staggering. He recalls that higher education was asked during the Holden administration to plan for cuts of five to fifteen percent when the economy dipped earlier in this decade. But Wagner says an order to plan for cuts of as much as 25 percent is "an alarming situation."
The state’s 23 higher education institutions are to report to the coordinating board for higher education what the impact would be on cuts of fifteen to twenty percent in state support. He says cuts will trap the schools in a vice—because enrollments often go up when times are bad because people are looking for career improvements or changes. But tuitions don’t cover the costs of the education, increasing the need for more state support at a time when state support might be slashed.