The state gives Missouri Western $641 per student less than the state average, costing the university over $2 million a year.
The proposed 5.2 percent budget increase for Westernâ€™s next fiscal year will only slightly offset the equity deficiency. The offset, however small, is because Westernâ€™s increase is higher than the average state increase of 4.2 percent. State funding for Western was $5,301 per student last year, $641 below the state average of $5,942. Missouri Southern comes in behind Western at $4,887. With 3,999 FTE students, that $641 loss is equal to over $2.5 million.
Bruce Speck, president of Missouri Southern, feels that the only way to change the problem is for state legislature to realize the need for change.
On the other end of the spectrum is Truman, which receives $7,367 per FTE and Lincoln with $7,335.
This equity issue has been a problem for Western since the state changed the funding methods in the early 1980s.
Until the early 1980s, public higher education was funded by using a formula that totaled the number of credit hours generated by each institution and dividing that number by 12 (full time load); the result is called full-time equivalent (FTE) students. The percentage per school from the total number of FTEâ€™s in the state was the percentage of funding received from the total higher education budget, excluding accommodations for universities with graduate programs and expensive medical schools.
Then in the early 1980s the legislature and the department of higher education decided to freeze the amount of funding at the last amount generated by the FTE percentage. That core amount would then only increase by a percentage instead of on an FTE basis. Thus, institutions that added many students would receive less per student, essentially dividing the pie into more and smaller slices.
â€œIn 1980 Missouri Western was 12 years old and we were growing, as was Missouri Southern. Our numbers took off, but our core was set,â€ said Beth Wheeler, director of external relations at Western.
â€œWe have grown much more consistently. In fact, some of the institutions who were frozen have decreased greatly, but their appropriation has stayed the same.â€
That means the institutions that have decreased in numbers are now receiving a much higher per FTE slice of the pie. For example, the Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly the University of Missouri-Rolla) had 6,684 FTE students in 1981, and by 2004 that number had decreased to 4, 594. Dr. James Scanlon has been trying to resolve the equity issue since he became president of Western.
“I came here in 2001 and with the help of a lot of people, Iâ€™ve been working on that issue once it became clear to me that it was an issue,â€ Scanlon said.
â€œProbably the most significant result being wha the governor proposed in his three year plan, because that became an official recognition by the department of higher education, the governor and the general assembly that there was this issue.â€
It is because the state recognized the issue that Westernâ€™s proposed increase is one percent higher than the state average. That one percent amounts to roughly $210,000. Rick Gilmore, interim vice president for financial planning and administration, is encouraged by Scanlonâ€™s efforts. â€œDr. Scanlon has been very diligent in getting equity for Western through all six years heâ€™s been here. I donâ€™t think anybody could have done a better job than Dr. Scanlon,â€ Gilmore said.
Twenty-five years after the core was frozen, Western has recovered about half of the loss caused by the freeze. â€œWe have made progress since Dr. Scanlon has been here; heâ€™s focused on it and encour aged legislators and we are getting closer. We were at more than $5 million, weâ€™re now at $2.5 million,â€ Wheeler said.