[The statement below was issued by UM System Interim President Steve Owens’ following Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s State of the State address, delivered Jan. 17, 2012. In his address, Gov. Nixon proposed a state budget that will cut $106 million in higher education funding. This would be, if the Missouri legislature approves, a 12.5% cut.]
Statement from University of Missouri System Interim President Steve Owens
Higher education is an important asset for our children, our future and our quality of life. Funding for public higher education should be viewed as an investment, not an expense. We are still reviewing the governor’s budget recommendation presented last night and assessing its impact on pay raises for university employees, tuition increases for students and further cuts throughout the university.
Given the historic difficulty in finding adequate funds for higher education, now is the time to begin looking at all options, including new, dedicated revenue streams. As we move forward together, the university remains committed to working with the governor and the legislature to find ways to adequately fund higher education and to maintain the quality and excellence that Missourians rightfully expect from the university.
For more than 10 years, higher education and the four campuses of the University of Missouri System have been doing more with less. The university now receives less annual state support than we did in 2001, yet we now educate 17,000 more students, generate $85 million more in sponsored research, provide $23.5 million more in unreimbursed health care, offer a broader scope of Extension services, including free disaster relief, and create more new jobs through economic development.
During the last decade, both the state and the university have continuously made difficult choices and cuts that have been felt by all Missourians. This year will be no different and the university will continue to work with all segments of the state to share the burden of a slowly recovering economy. The years of cuts specific to higher education, however, have placed our state 45th out of 50 states in per capita higher education funding—lower than any of our neighboring states, any state in the Midwest and any state in the South.
It is fair to ask how long we can continue to do more with less. After a decade of reductions in state support and implementation of operational efficiencies, we are near the point where either the level of funding will have to increase or the scope and quality of services will have to decrease.