Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG - 9/26/2006 - Although their institutions may differ in size and mission, two state university leaders demonstrated their unity this week on issues like Governor Matt Blunt's Lewis and Clark Initiative and the need for stronger state support for public higher education.
Forum Brings Area Officials Together
MU President Elson Floyd and UCM President Aaron Podolefsky spoke about key issues facing institutions across the state when they hosted a higher education forum Sept. 25, at UCM.
The forum was attended by more than 100 people, including representatives of UCM and MU; the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education; area chambers of commerce; city, county and state officials; candidates for public offices; and media. It was part of a collaborative series of events being conducted on campuses around the state to provide frank discussion about Missouri's public universities, higher education's impact on citizens and the economic welfare of the state.
Investment in Higher Education Discussed
"My colleagues and I have been going around the state talking about the reinvestment in higher education," Floyd said as he spoke in the UCM's Elliott Union ballroom.
He stressed that despite declining state funding for higher education in recent years, Missouri's public universities continue to support academic excellence through stewardship of their resources, including measures such as administrative streamlining and strengthening student financial aid.
Institutions, Floyd said, are taking measures to keep costs down, but the state legislature needs to follow their lead by increasing its support for higher education.
Student Share of Expenses Climb
According to the MU president, students' share of their college expenses has steadily climbed during this decade. As an example, he cited that in 2000, 55 percent of MU's operating budget came from state appropriations and 35.8 percent was derived from tuition and fees. That has changed significantly in Fiscal Year 2007, with 47.8 percent of the operating budget coming from tuition and fees and 39.1 percent from state appropriations.
"We know the dollars coming into our institutions are very precious and limited. We need to continue to ensure we have access, affordability and accountability," Floyd said.
Inflationary Increases Not Being Covered
Podolefsky said the increase in the "cost" of education (what the university expends to educate a student) is not driving the "price" (what students and parents pay). The price has gone up because institutions do not receive enough state funding to cover inflationary increases.
He pointed out that UCM, like many other state-supported institutions, has sought ways to help students to fund their education through scholarships, regular student employment and work-study programs. The university annually provides about $10 million in institutional funds for student financial assistance.
Lewis and Clark Initiative Discussed
Both men spoke briefly and fielded some questions related to their support for Missouri Governor's Lewis and Clark Initiative. This is a proposal, which is still pending in the legislative process, to raise about $335 million for capital improvements at colleges and universities across the state from the sale of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.
Funding Benefits Capital Improvements
Of that amount, MU would receive about $94 million for capital improvement projects, of which $84 million would go toward building a health sciences research center at the university. UCM would receive $13.2 million for renovation of its Morrow-Garrison complex, which houses health and human services-related programs. UCM would provide an additional $2 million toward the project.
"We are at the point of critical need," Podolefsky said, noting that most buildings on university campuses need renovation about every 25 years. Without state capital funding, many of these improvements are not possible.
UCM Aaron Podolefsky, left, and Elson Floyd, president of MU,
led a higher education forum discussing key issues facing Missouri's
colleges and universities Sept. 25 at UCM.