A proposal by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon could provide $1.49 million in extra funding for Southeast Missouri State University.
Local Republican legislators said while that number sounds nice, paying for the increase could be a challenge. Included in the Nixon budget is $34 million in potential increases for Missouri's public colleges and universities.
For the first time, funding increases that a school could receive are based on whether it has met a series of performance goals, which include criteria such as student retention and degrees awarded.
Under Nixon's proposed budget for fiscal year 2014, the University of Missouri would receive a 4.3 percent increase in state funding -- almost $17 million -- for reaching 100 percent of its performance goals. But Jefferson College, a two-year institution in Hillsboro, Mo., would see only a 2.2 percent increase, or just a bit more than $158,000, for achieving only 40 percent of its performance goals.
"This approach to funding for higher education didn't happen just last week," said Department of Higher Education deputy commissioner Paul Wagner. "The department has made this known to universities and colleges and members of the General Assembly for almost a year, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that it's in the works."
Southeast would receive a 3.4 percent increase in funding worth nearly $1.5 million for attaining 80 percent of its performance goals. Expectations apply to freshman-to-sophomore retention; degrees awarded; success for students on licensure exams or in job placement; spending more on classroom resources vs. administrative costs; and the percentage of academic programs delivered with a low per-credit-hour cost.
According to Wagner, Southeast barely missed its freshman-to-sophomore retention goal.
"It's transparent. It rewards results," said Dr. Kenneth Dobbins, the president of Southeast Missouri State University, who was first to testify Tuesday before the House Education Appropriations Committee.
Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Mo., would receive almost $260,000 for meeting 100 percent of its goals, and Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff, Mo., would get almost $140,000 for meeting 60 percent of the goals.
Nixon's budget will have to be approved by the Republican-controlled state Legislature. State Rep. Kathy Swan, a Cape Girardeau Republican who serves on the House Education Appropriations Committee, is concerned with where the money to fund the governor's proposal will come from.
"I'd love for Southeast to get a funding increase," Swan said. "They've seen an increase in enrollment like other schools across the state have, and every little bit helps when it comes to funding programs for all of those students. But I'm concerned with where the money for Southeast and the other schools will come from. We'll have to look in every nook and cranny to find it, I suppose."
State Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, who represents the 146th District, also doesn't know how the governor plans to pay for his higher-education funding.
"I care about higher education," Lichtenegger said, "but I also care about the state budget."
Lichtenegger described the governor's State of the State address as a "wish list."
Wagner said he understood that the governor's higher-education proposal will have to clear hurdles within the legislature before it can be implemented.
"The funding levels in the budget are certainly the beginning of the process, not the end," he said. "The General Assembly has to look at them and decide if they'll want to support it or do something different. Right now, there's no way to tell."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO
Mineral Area College, Park Hills, MO
Three Rivers College, Poplar Bluff, MO