Higher Education Needs Among Declining Funding

“The Missouri higher education system is exceedingly complex,” David Russell, Ph.D., Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education, told St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce members at St. Joe Rising on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

He said there is $1.1 billion of appropriations for higher education, but that funding is down 30 percent since 2000. Enrollment also is declining after records highs caused by people returning to school for more education during the Great Recession.

He said that more and more careers require a certificate or four-year degree and that it is a goal of the Coordinating Board of Higher Education for 60 percent of Missourians to have a certificate or degree by 2025. Missouri is currently at 49 percent.

He said it is taking students longer to complete degrees and more students need remedial classes before they can take college-level courses in English and math. The number of students that need the remedial courses and actually graduate is only 7 to 10 percent, meaning that more students need to come to college better prepared to increase graduation rates. Universities are held to five funding goals to get the maximum amount of funding.

Last week, both Missouri Western State University and Northwest Missouri State University reported they have met all five performance benchmarks required to receive 100 percent of appropriated funding in the next budget cycle.

A Missouri Western professor, Dr. Bill Church, who was in the audience, asked if high schools should be held to the same standards as universities.

Lowell Kruse, a Coordinating Board member, said that Missouri’s education system should work together as a whole, from Pre-K through college to ensure a level continuum of education throughout a person’s life, but currently the way the system is set up makes it difficult. He and Dr. Russell encouraged those in attendance to talk to their legislators about restructuring the education system.