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Lobbyist Money Help  

Proposed bill links students to funding

April 07, 1999
By: Carrie Beth Lasley
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 290

JEFFERSON CITY- The University of Missouri received a 5.8 percent increase in funding from the state legislature for this current year. But the institution had a 8 percent increase in enrollment.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Ted House, D-St. Charles, if in effect this year, would have given the University an even larger slice of the higher education money pie.

"We have universities in the state asking for more money and educating less students," House said. "I would rather we fund students, instead of funding institutions."

House's bill, rejected by the Senate Education Committee, would change the way the legislature considers higher education funding.

"Right now, we fund institutions," House said. "The institutions say they need more money and if we can give it to them, we do. I would rather we fund students instead of institutions."

UM lobbyist Jim Snider remembers a similar system that died out in the 1980s. Both the administration and the legislature based their budget actions for higher education on a per-credit-hour basis -- with higher dollars being awarded to higher-cost courses. Snider said the system had incredible fluctuation. He said he prefers the current method.

"Our funding formula, while not perfect is a good one," Snider said. "Anytime you fund by averages, you have to be awfully careful they aren't used to the detriment of the institutions."

Snider said although the university would have seen a larger increase, it isn't a program he feels would benefit the UM System in the long run.

"The UM System would have big concerns about this kind of proposal," he said. "We're responsible for the most expensive disciplines of higher education. Medicine, veterinary medicine, physical therapy - these are high-in-demand, high-cost programs."

Senate Education Committee member Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, said she voted against the bill because it does not consider the needs of UM-Rolla.

"Particularly, with the University of Missouri-Rolla being a technical school, it has funding needs that are in excess of other schools," Steelman said. "The cost of funding a technical school is an important component to consider with a bill like this."

Snider said the focus on enrollment could lead to lowering standards for admission. Though by Snider's estimate the university would grow three-fold, the harm done to the students and families of students would outweigh the benefits.

"There should be an incentive to grow, but it shouldn't be the only goal," he said. "Rather than looking at the rate of increase, look at the rate of retention. You're providing an institution where they're, at least happy."