The Missouri House Budget Committee is scheduled to hear today Gov. Mike Parson’s FY22 state budget proposal for the state Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development. The governor wants funding to return to pre-pandemic levels for the state’s colleges and universities.

State Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, speaks on the Missouri House floor on March 28, 2019 (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

State Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, says state funding provided to Missouri’s colleges and universities is almost identical to what the state gave to them in 1999. He says Missouri continues to devalue higher education – from trade schools to the top-of-the-line institutions. Razer wants the state to boost funding to them to help ensure that every student can afford to reach their full potential – regardless of where they are from.

“That next great neurosurgeon is out there somewhere, and it may not be in a rich neighborhood,” he says. “She may be on a farm somewhere. She may be in a trailer home somewhere. She may be living in an inner city in a crime-ridden neighborhood, but we have to, as a state, make sure that we aren’t pigeon-holing people to stay in their station in life.”

Razer says in 1999, 70% of the University of Missouri-Columbia’s budget was from state funding. Today, about 20% of the university’s budget is made up of state funding.

“The difference from that 70 to 20% has to be made up,” says Razer. “It’s made up partly through fundraising that the University of Missouri has been very successful at. But the majority of that is made up through tuition and fees on students and families.”

According to Razer, additional funding will help to ensure colleges and universities are world-class and affordable for all students. He cites Georgia’s scholarship program that works with Georgia students to make in-state college a reality for them.

“Their population is growing. Their citizenry is better educated,” he says. “They are attracting the businesses of tomorrow. The same is true when you look at other states that are growing – when you look at North Carolina, when you look at Texas. They are making investments in their people, and their infrastructure, and their institutions.”

Razer says Missouri students are “leaving in droves” to attend colleges and universities in Kansas, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. He says some of these states are offering large discounts.

“I think it’s the University of Arkansas just offers in-state tuition to Missouri residents to go to the University of Arkansas. Their state better funds the university so it’s cheaper for kids to go to Arkansas than it is to go to Missouri,” says Razer.

State funding also impacts the ability of Missouri colleges and universities to recruit faculty and staff.

Razer says Missouri is doing a good job of recruiting students from the Chicago area, and therefore a few more arguments over the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

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