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Factoring in inflation, Missouri State University is $17 million behind in its operating budget since 2002, according to President Clif Smart.
Outlining the school’s priorities for the upcoming Missouri legislative session, Smart says that after years of declines in appropriations, MSU hopes to get a boost from the state for the second straight year.
“Last year we had our first increase in five years after a series of decreases, and so we are certainly going to be advocating for another increase in our operating budget this year, and this is probably our first priority,” Smart said.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Nixon visited Missouri State to address his proposed budget for higher education for the 2014-2015 school year. It’ll call for a five percent increase to $36.7 million for Missouri’s public universities, made available through the state’s performance-based model adopted earlier this year. For MSU, that model earned the school an additional $2.4 million.
Smart says the university is also joining the Governor’s statewide initiative Caring for Missourians – Mental Health, which aimsto increase the number graduates in critical and mental health programs.
“We are a part of that proposal; we’ve worked with all of the other colleges and universities in the state to put that together with him [the Governor]. And our piece of that we’re requesting $1.6 million there, so that would be in addition to whatever appropriations increase for the general operating fund.”
The President says should additional appropriations come through; the university will again look to bump up pay for employees, as well as address projects that had been put on hold. Those include hiring new faculty, maintenance of buildings, plus the ability to take care of increased security and utility costs for new school facilities.
Smart noted that last year’s legislative session did not include passage of a bonding project to address capital funding needs, as hoped. But since then MSU has worked to meet the requirements of the state’s 50/50 plan passed two years ago, where acquiring half the money for a building allows you to request the other half from the Legislature.
“We have submitted our first proposal for that this year, it’s a Student Admission and Success Center, sometimes in short hand we call that the Welcome Center,” Smart said. “So that’s a $4.5 million building, we’ve raised half that money privately, and so we have submitted a request for the other piece of that.”
The university did received $1.3 million this year to fund a new occupational therapy program; a portion of which Smart says will be used, as well as some private and reserve monies, to try and add space to the College of Health and Human Services.
Hear our complete conversation with President Smart, as part of our monthly series Engaging the Community, by clicking play above.