Western fights 8.2 percent state cut

Institutional News Student Government

 “It’s been one thing after another,” University President Robert Vartabedian said about cuts to Missouri Western’s state appropriations. “But we’re going to get there.”

After negotiations over an increase in tuition, the state has lowered the amount of funding it gives Missouri Western by 8.2 percent, the highest cut out of all the Missouri universities. While other universities were cut 7 percent, Western and the University of Missouri system saw higher cuts because of an increase in their tuition.

According to Vartabedian, Governor Nixon wanted Western to raise tuition by only a total of 5.5 percent. While Western’s increase this year was 5.5 percent, students will also have to pay an additional 2.98 percent from an increase last year. That increase went on the books but was never collected.

“I was very honest from the get-go that that would be very difficult given our funding circumstances,” Vartabedian said.

Currently, Western receives the lowest state appropriations per student, about $4,300. Harris-Stowe, Lincoln and Truman Universities, along with the University of Missouri schools, receive roughly $7,000 per student in state appropriations.

While Vartabedian doesn’t want to cut funding from other schools and give it to Western, he believes that the current system is flawed.

“The two things we need to deal with this is the repeal of Senate Bill 389 which forces us to jump through a lot of hoops to get a tuition increase with no guarantees,” Vartabedian said. “The other thing would be trying to get the legislature to do something with our appropriation.”

Vartabedian believes that a system that ties a university’s enrollment to their appropriations would be fair for all of Missouri’s universities.

As far as tuition, this year’s increase including required fees still makes Western the third cheapest in the state. The two schools with lower tuition than Western are Missouri Southern and Harris-Stowe.

Last year, Missouri Western’s student senate voted unanimously for an increase in tuition, a sign to Vartabeidan that students want a quality education.

“A Harris-Stowe for example can abide by the Governor’s wishes and not ask for a significant tuition increase,” Vartabedian said. “Our financial circumstances are that with all these increasing costs and cuts from the state and so forth that for us to sustain a quality education we need to ask what the student will tolerate, and they seem to be willing to tolerate a certain level.”

The Student Government Association also held a rally over the summer to vocalize their displeasure with the state’s cuts. Several days after the 8.2 percent cut was announced, Western’s student leaders gathered in Blum Union to rally against the cut. The “You Can’t Keep a Griffon Down” campaign aims to alert community leaders and state representatives that Western students want more funding for a quality education.

A symbolic petition has also been started online. Community members, students, staff and faculty can sign to show their support for more state funding for Western.

SGA president Alison Norris said that the “You Can’t Keep a Griffon Down” was originally a slogan started at the rally over the summer but has transformed into a campaign.

“We feel that students deserve the highest education possible at Missouri Western,” Norris said. “We deserve the same amount of state funding as any other student.”

Roughly 150 students and four state representatives attended the rally that was held over the summer.

“After the rally, several members of SGA wrote letters to the governor to show how we felt about the situation,” Norris said. “We thought the 8.2% wasn’t permanent, but we just found out that it was.”

Norris and other key members of SGA plan to meet with the governor in September to persuade him to rework the state’s formula for funding universities.

Currently, Western is looking at other possibilities of revenues other than tuition and state funding. One idea that Western administration is currently talking about is leasing the large amount of farm land that Western has.

“It will help out a little bit, but not substantially,” Dr. Vartabedian said.
While the leasing will only bring in $50,000 to $100,000 in revenue, that translate to nearly one full-time professor position.

Dean of Graduate Studies Brian Cronk is also making efforts to bring in more money to Western’s budget via grants. A new initiative aims to give professors time to apply for grants for research that students can participate in to further their education outside the classroom.

“Part of what universities do is look for grants,” Cronk said. “Now there may be more pressure on us because of the budget cuts, but we’d still be doing it but maybe not emphasizing them quite as much. But we’re looking for anything and everything we can do.”

While Cronk said that there are larger grants in Science and technology, grants for the humanities subjects do exist.
“We’ve focused on the spending side,” Cronk said. “Now we need to focus on the revenue side.”

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