MSU works for more state appropriations to match student growth

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3/KSPR) - More than 26,000 students are enrolled at Missouri State University (MSU) for the 2018-2019 academic year. The President of MSU, Clif Smart, said the school has more students from the Show Me State than any other college in Missouri.

"These students come from all over Missouri," wrote Smart in a post on the MSU website under his section dubbed "Clif's Notes." The post states more than 4,500 students are from Greene County, more than 4,900 from the St. Louis area and more than 2,200 from the Kansas City area. Smart also wrote the school has grown by 6,000 students since 2001.

"The result is that Missouri State University now receives significantly less state funding per student than any other university in the state," Smart continued. "To bring MSU up to the next lowest university would require a $9.5 million appropriation increase." He also said to bring MSU up to the state average would require a $39.8 million appropriation increase.

KY3 and KSPR Morning News Reporter, Lexi Spivak, talked with Smart about the issue. He explained there are several challenges MSU, and other state universities, have faced over the years. "First is that state appropriations have decreased for all of the universities in Missouri," said Smart. He explained that typically every college gets the same appropriations decrease. "Last year, I think appropriations decreased about 2% for everyone, the year before that is was more like 9%."

He said the second challenge is that not all universities grow or shrink at the same rate. "When the decreases or increases are across the board, it impacts some universities more than others," he said. "The universities that are growing are educating more students for less money and that’s the situation we’re in at Missouri State.”

Smart said there are several options that have been proposed to the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education and passed on to the Governor. The hope is that those options will be added to the state’s budget and approved by the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate.

The first option is a performance based piece. "You get money based on doing well, graduating students, having your students be employed in the workforce, etcetera," Smart explained.

Second is an equity component. "That would help those universities that have grown, while others have either stayed stagnant or shrunk," he said. "We would benefit from that."

Lastly, President Smart said the Governor is also looking at a better way to fund specific workforce development programs at universities.

"Through all three of those mechanisms we begin catching up in terms of our funding per student,” said Smart. Currently, MSU has about $4,500 per student in state appropriations. Meanwhile, the University of Missouri has about $7,500 in student appropriations.

Smart said he is staying optimistic the Governor and legislators will fight to even the playing field in the world of appropriations. "There is kind of a fairness issue here and a lot of our legislators are very sympathetic and understand that we do need to be trued up as a result of our growth, so we can continue to do the important work that universities do," said Smart.

Smart said state appropriations account for one-third of the funding for the entire university. The steadier they can keep state appropriations, the more the university can control tuition increases.

To get more involved in the university's work with the legislature, follow the links attached to this story.