A legislative effort could dole out state funding to Missouri’s public colleges and universities in a different way. State Senator Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola, is proposing to create a different funding formula.

State Sen. Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola

The proposed formula would take into consideration the average annual earnings of students six to ten years after they first enrolled. Students who are currently employed and not seeking a higher degree would be counted in this average.

It also gives schools credit for enrolling more low- and middle-income students who receive Pell Grants and would take into account the number of students seeking degrees in public service fields, such as teaching, social work and law enforcement.

“The goal of this bill is to ensure that the taxpayers’ dollars are being spent in the most wise and efficient way,” says Eslinger. “As a graduate of both Missouri State University and University of Missouri, I believe it should be the position of the General Assembly not to choose the winners and losers of funding through annual appropriations. The legislation is seeking to establish a way to ensure that legislative bias is not being implemented in an unfair fashion and to ensure that our institutions of public higher ed are also providing a service to their students to ensure that their degree will continue to have value once they walk across that stage.”

Committee Chair, Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, questions one of the factors.

“If funding is kind of based on earnings, everybody’s going to have to open a medical school or something. I mean how do we account for a lot of occupations that are very important but are not really the highest earning occupation,” she asks.

Paul Wagner, with the Council on Public Higher Education, says the public colleges and universities he represents oppose this bill.

“The incentives that this bill puts in place are – steer people away from teaching, from law enforcement, from social work, from things where we know no one’s going into those fields to get rich. Better off, push them into computer science,” says Wagner. “It would be in the institution’s interest to discourage people from going into those fields, obviously, because their earnings still count just the same as someone else’s earnings in whatever field they may choose. What kind of behavior do you want institutions to undertake?”

The Senate Education Committee is reviewing Senate Bill 1077.

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