JEFFERSON CITY - Lawmakers from both parties offered tentative support Monday for incorporating Northwest Missouri State University (NMSU) into the University of Missouri system.
"I think it's a great idea," said Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, who chairs the House's Education Committee. "I think it would save money because there are some services that are duplicative and now could be done under one roof."
Officials from NMSU and the UM system announced plans Monday to study a merger of the two institutions.
But before NMSU could become the fifth campus in the UM system, the Legislature would have to sign off on the deal. And with only six weeks left in the session, it could be difficult to get legislation passed this year, said UM system lobbyist Jim Snider. He added that in order for legislators to approve the change this session, lawmakers would have to uniformly agree that the move would be beneficial for everyone.
Both Republicans and Democrats voiced support for a merger -- at least at this preliminary stage.
"Offhand I can't think of any reason I would vote against them doing this," said Senate Education Committee Chair Bill Foster, R-Poplar Bluff.
Columbia's Democratic Sen. Ken Jacob was more cautious in his support of the plan.
"I want to praise their efforts to begin the dialogue," Jacob said. He said he did not have enough information to decide whether it is a good idea.
What do lawmakers from northwestern Missouri think about the idea?
Sen. David Klindt, R-Bethany, said he is open to a possible merger.
"I think it could be a great asset to Northwest Missouri," Klindt said, "and think there's an opportunity for cost savings."
Rep. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, said before he would back the plan he would need to see a detailed analysis of how the proposal would affect NMSU. He added that one possible benefit of the school joining the UM system would increased research and grant opportunities.
If NMSU does join the UM system and the union is successful, Foster said it might make sense for other regional colleges to join the system.
"We would have a more unified university [system] with a mission that would make sense for all of those schools," he said.