Missouri has hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs waiting to be done at its public colleges and universities, but they don’t have the money to make the fixes. State Higher Education and Workforce Development Director Zora Mulligan says the schools face a maintenance crisis, like many colleges and universities around the country.

Zora Mulligan (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development)

“Deferred maintenance is not a very jazzy thing to talk about but it’s one of the most critical issues facing our public colleges and universities,” says Mulligan. “There have been times in the past where deferred maintenance funds were allocated pretty regularly through the appropriations process. It’s been a long time since we were in that era and our buildings have really started to show that lack of investment.”

The legislature and governor control the state’s roughly $30 billion annual purse strings.

Mulligan says most capital investment proposals from Missouri’s colleges and universities mostly involve basic and delayed maintenance needs.

“They’re critical. They’re not only kind of embarrassing in terms of the aesthetic, but they affect the structural integrity of buildings. In some cases, there may be a chance that student safety might be affected,” says Mulligan.

Mulligan gives one example of a major maintenance problem at a school with steam tunnels under the campus and sidewalks.

“The steam tunnels are in danger of beginning to crumble, which means that students walking on sidewalks across the top would be in danger of falling into the steam tunnel if it really deteriorated that far,” she says.

Mulligan says some of the more visible and high-profile new buildings are not funded by state general revenue.

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