Nixon proposes $55.7M increase to higher education

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Riding a wave of criticism towards Missouri’s largest university, Gov. Jay Nixon today announced that he would propose total higher education funding of almost $1 billion – an all-time high – to higher education.

The increase breaks down to an additional $55.7 million, a 6 percent increase, in performance funding for higher education, which will bring total state funding for higher education to a record $985 million next year. Additionally, the Governor announced tuition at public universities will be frozen – the fourth tuition freeze Nixon has announced since taking office in 2009.

The announcement was made on the front steps of the Governor’s Mansion and streamed publicly via Periscope – a mobile streaming app. The Governor was flanked by public college and university officials, including University of Missouri System (UMSystem) President Tim Wolfe, who has been unable to represent the university at recent legislative hearings. The full announcement can be seen here.

“By bringing people together to invest in students and hold down college costs, we have made Missouri a national leader in college affordability and innovation,” Nixon said. “Today, I am proud to announce that under my budget, Missouri undergraduates won’t pay a penny more in tuition next year.  This tuition freeze is good for students, families and our economy as a whole. Because the less debt students take on when they’re in school, the more they can spend when they graduate – buying a car, starting a business, and pursuing their dreams.”

Of the increase, public colleges and universities are agreeing to dedicate $9.2 million of the $55.7 million to programs related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

“Missouri’s public universities are dedicated to keeping college affordable so that the doors of our institutions are open to every student who works hard to achieve their dreams,” said Missouri State University President Clif Smart, President of the Council on Public Higher Education in Missouri. “On behalf of four-year institutions across the state, I applaud Gov. Nixon for his leadership and commitment to higher education quality and affordability, and we look forward to working with members of the General Assembly to secure this needed investment and holding tuition flat next year for Missouri undergraduates.”

Supporters echoed Nixon’s sentiments of stressing cooperation and coordination with the General Assembly, which currently has many members cautious of the UMSystem’s spending priorities and partnerships with Planned Parenthood.

“Investing in education is one of the smartest investments we can make in our state’s future,” said Ron Chesbrough, president of St. Charles Community College and chair of the Missouri Community College Association’s Presidents/Chancellors Council. “This significant investment would enable Missouri’s community colleges to freeze tuition next year and to continue delivering the quality, affordable education our students need and deserve.  We, too, look forward to working with Governor Nixon and the General Assembly to make this a reality for our students and their families.”

The announcement was not met with total support, as Periscope streamers commented many obscenities directed at the Governor and universities. Politicos quickly took to Twitter questioning the Governor’s timing, not only due to recent tension between the legislature and the UMSystem, but also due to a lack of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Consensus Revenue Estimate (CRE) and Medicaid numbers.

The legislature will approve the FY 2017 budget this coming session. Last year, the budget was approved and sent to the Governor in early May.

 

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Rachael Herndon Dunn

Rachael Herndon is the managing editor at The Missouri Times, but also produces This Week in Missouri Politics and publishes Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to writing after working as a campaign and legislative staffer. Rachael studied at the University of Missouri - Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children. To contact Rachael, email rachael@themissouritimes.com, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.

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