The Department of Higher Education is giving the legislature more understanding of how colleges and universities in Missouri use state funds.
The Department of Higher Education has a task force that breaks down funding and outlines why they’re asking for more.
Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education Paul Wagner says even in tight budget years such as this, it’s important the General Assembly understand how the money will be spent. He presented a report to the Joint Committee on Education.
He says the task force was put in place to make the case that investing in higher education is important.
One point Wagner made is that not all students cost the same amount of money. Those in more technical fields often need additional resources. Likewise, he says not all institutions can spend money the same way.
Wagner says there weren’t really any policies in place before this task force.
He says things had fallen behind during the last recession when there was just no money to ask for, so no requests were made.
Wagner says technical fields are in high demand, such as nursing and pharmacology, and the state needs to help expand those programs so more students can enroll. He says right now, students are on waiting lists to get in.
Wagner says it’s no surprise that nearly half of Missouri’s college students are enrolled at community college and technical schools.
Wagner also presented the guiding principles of the task force. He says its members believed that new funding policies should:
Be responsive to state and community needs; Be explicit in requests for funding; Connect to the Coordinated Plan; Be simple and rational; Address clear, distinctive missions; Include performance-based incentives (reward excellence); Funding to be adequate, equibable, and enrollment sensitive; Promote efficiency and accountability in institutional operations; Recognize the need for a multi-year approach; and Be clearly communicated and understood by the public.
He also pointed out the need for initiative funding to expand or add new programs – “We don’t have room for all the people who want to get into high-demand fields like nursing, pharmacists,” etc. “I heard someone say we don’t have a teacher recruitment problem, we have a teacher retention problem.” Because of increased graduates, “we need to produce to grow the economy,” the programs also need to be expanded to educate all of the students who want to get into these programs.