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Campus History: How UKC became UMKC

The University of Missouri-Kansas City has a deep history dating back over 78 years.

The subject of how UMKC became the university it is today may be the most crucial.

“Unfortunately, it’s not a tale that is easily told… or quickly told,” said UMKC Senior Archive Specialist Tonya Crawford.

UMKC has not always been UMKC.

The University was first chartered in 1929 and in 1933 the first 265 students enrolled at the University of Kansas City (UKC).

UKC was a private, co-ed institution sitting on the same campus as present-day UMKC.

But thirty years after the first students enrolled, UKC changed.

UKC merged with the University of Missouri (MU) and became a public institution.

The name of the University of Kansas City was officially changed to the University of Missouri Kansas City on July 25, 1963.

Why did UKC drop its independent status to become an affiliate of MU?

The history of this change is full of conflicting answers.

According to a feature in The 1964 Kangaroo, the university’s yearbook, UKC had several reasons for making the change.

First, “limited available financial resources” were cited.

At that point, UKC had not received a financial endowment from any donors or contributing organization.

After three decades in operation, the university required an endowment or additional financial assistance to cover “spiraling costs.”

Future development and the improvement of various programs of study would require additional financial assistance that was unavailable.

Second, merging with MU would provide lower tuition rates.

Private education tuition costs were kept as low as possible during UKC’s existence, but even this rate was too high for the “thousands of eligible students in the community who could not afford to go elsewhere.”

The university’s history page, www.umkc.edu/history, adds the merger with MU did increase enrollment rates by almost 50 percent.

Third, the state of Missouri was faced with flooding enrollment rates at the collegiate level.

The state was interested in expanding post-secondary educational opportunities.

UKC’s acceptance of the merger would entitle the University to financial support from state taxes.

UKC struggled financially, but it did consider all available options.

For instance, UKC administrators discussed a merger with a local community college.

A Jan. 30, 1962 article in The Kansas City Star, says the community college merger was “a previously unpublicized plan to affiliate the Junior college with the University of Kansas City.”

Negotiations were in process with the unidentified junior college, but the Star also discussed the MU merger.

The same article said the MU merger was favored by the community.

In a March 6, 1963 issue of the U-News, editor Bill Isenhour said the UKC Board of Trustees announced the plans to merge.

“Missouri Governor John Dalton delivered a special message to a joint meeting of the Senate and House, urging them to appropriate the $7,100,000 necessary for the completion of the merger,” Isenhour said.

Isenhour claims if UKC had not accepted the merger, the state would have established another branch of the University of Missouri in the Kansas City area.

“[Rejecting the current offer] would have virtually killed the chances of the University receiving favorable consideration later,” he said.

That same year the University of Missouri-St. Louis joined the UM System as a new university.

In 1964, the University of Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy also joined the UM System, and was renamed the University of Missouri-Rolla.

In an article written for the Star on May 22, 1968, the Education Editor Patricia Jansen Doyle said UMKC is the “frustrated middle child, standing part way in development between the fledgling undergraduate campus in St. Louis and the mature, diversified campus in Columbia.”

One can only imagine how different UMKC would be today if the UKC of the early 1960s had not accepted the merger proposal.

jhoerman@unews.com

 

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