Legislative goal items for many of Missouri’s public colleges and universities took a hit this week when the state’s governor restricted $68 million from two and four-year schools.
Missouri State University, as it has in previous years, listed ongoing and one-time appropriations as one of its three priorities this legislative session. The $6.3 million restriction MSU was dealt for the current fiscal year will be replaced using reserve funds, President Clif Smart said Tuesday. Any cuts beyond that could affect tuition and personnel.
Related appropriations objectives show the university will be seeking sector equity funding for its West Plains campus, $1 million in matching capital funds for the Ozarks Learning Center at Bull Shoals, and reimbursement for tuition waivers under the Missouri Returning Heroes Act.
“We’re not aware that there’s gonna be any capital funding for this year,” Smart said on KSMU’s Friday airing of Engaging the Community. “We have that in there in case there is. So if there is money for capital funding we wanna be at the table to say ‘Hey we’ve got a critical project that we think is meaningful for our state – Ozarks Education Center at Bull Shoals.’”
He believes the Returning Heroes Act waiver has a chance of being put into the budget, while admitting the equity funding at West Plains is “much less likely.”
Missouri State is also requesting the legislature eliminate or modify the statutory constraints on its ability to offer graduate and professional degrees. The school says the law limits MSU’s ability to develop these degree programs, effectively requiring all programs to be established only through cooperative arrangements under which the University of Missouri is the degree granting institution.
Bills introduced in the Missouri House and Senate last year that would change the statute failed to make it out of committee. The Missouri Department of Higher Education was then asked to convene a task force to explore the issue.
“I was on that task force,” says Smart. “The work is done. Essentially it proposes a model that limits certain things to the University of Missouri…but provides a pathways for other universities, including our own, to offer practiced doctrines in fields like health, business and education.”
The interim report released in December received unanimous endorsement from the taskforce. Smart calls it a “win, win, win,” and says MSU and other public two- and four-year schools will be advocating for the changes this session.
“We’ll need to modify a half-dozen statutes to put that into place.”
Additionally, the university will be making the case for local control of its operations in hopes of avoiding blanket regulations over all the state’s public institutions.
Last year, several bills were filed calling for concealed carry of guns on campus. None of them made it to the finish line. Current law leaves the choice to state university boards.
Smart says MSU believes that in most cases these boards should be setting the policy. He adds, “The policy for what should happen at Cape Girardeau and St. Louis and Springfield may not be the same. There may be different local conditions and the kind of university you are that determines how you set the load of your teachers, and how and when you’re going to borrow money, and what kind of fire arms in what circumstances should be allowed or not allowed on campus.”