Survey shows Missouri education cuts among highest nationwide

Friday, December 13, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Missouri's 10 percent budget cuts for higher education this school year rank second among state governments' cuts to colleges, according to a recent survey.

The only state to slash a larger percentage from higher education funding was Oregon, with an 11 percent cut.

Overall, higher education spending by state governments increased 1.2 percent this school year, less than the rate of inflation, according to researchers at Illinois State University's Center for the Study of Education Policy.

Kansas joined Missouri as one of the 13 states that decreased higher education spending this school year, the center's annual survey showed.

The survey reflects the money each state's legislature set aside for higher education at the beginning of the fiscal year this past summer, but it does not reflect the recent higher education budget cuts some state have made.

For example, the survey says Kansas decreased its higher education funding by just one-tenth of 1 percent. But higher education budgets in Kansas have been cut much more since then.

In August, Gov. Bill Graves ordered state universities to trim their spending by three-quarters of 1 percent, or $5.3 million. That was less than the 2 percent cuts ordered for other state agencies.

But as the financial situation grew worse, Graves ordered further cuts in November. The 3.9 percent reduction, shared by most other state agencies, totaled $27.4 million for the universities.

Other states besides Kansas are cutting budgets midyear. Because they are seeing revenue dwindle as the economy stalls they are changing their spending accordingly.

Missouri public colleges expect to see another reduction in their budgets in coming weeks or months because the state's tax collections are lagging.

The survey's overall 1.2 percent increase in total higher education spending authorized by state legislatures gives a misleading picture, said Travis Reindl, director of state policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

"By the end of this fiscal year (2003), I fully expect higher education funding will be just at or even below fiscal year 2002 appropriations," Reindl said. "It's like the law of gravity. What must go up, must come down. We're in the middle of the coming down."

Missouri looked worse than other states in the survey because it took action earlier to handle the looming financial crisis, said Quentin Wilson, Missouri's interim commissioner for higher education.

If the governor had not cut higher education funding in the middle of the last school year, Wilson said, Missouri's higher education funding growth in the last decade would have outstripped all but three states.

The survey, which appears in the Dec. 13 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, "confirms what we already know," Wilson said.

"Hopefully, it gives us a renewed commitment to trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel and trying to figure out how to invest in the future in higher education in a way that helps grow the economy and shows people the value of the higher education investment."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: