Commentary Featured Opinion Opinion

It still surprises me when I talk to students and find they have no idea that the State of Missouri has drastically cut appropriations for Missouri Western State University. The cuts are greater than any other university in Missouri despite the fact that we were already the lowest in the state considering appropriations per student.
Maybe students got lost or lost interest somewhere between Senate Bill 389 and Gov. Nixon’s new idea about “performance based funding.” This issue is important because all of the confusion and numbers really boil down to one basic fact. Students are going to pay more.

What went wrong?

Senate Bill 389 was supposed to limit increases of student’s tuitions to only the amount of the consumer price index. It was a good piece of legislation at the time. Universities across Missouri were increasing tuitions to offset costs at what seemed to be an alarming rate. The bill was very popular at the time. No one saw or thought about the future.
After Senate Bill 389 universities including Western eased up on tuition increases. For many years when Western could have increased tuition justifiably they didn’t. When they did increase tuition they didn’t actually charge students the increase that was approved by the board.
Meanwhile the cost of operation was going up everywhere. Things such as utilities and insurance were jumping as much as 20 to 30 percent. The number of students entering Western every semester was setting new records. That placed higher demand for faculty and classrooms.
It soon became obvious that we could not continue this course. Western’s administration proposed and the board approved a tuition increase higher than Senate Bill 389 allowed. As Western was about to be hit with a large fine for ignoring Senate Bill 389 the board lowered the increase to just what was needed for the campus to operate. The fine came any way from the state in the form of lower appropriations and then they cut even more for good measure.
The real twisted part of this tale is that Gov. Nixon stated that he approved of these cuts because he was concerned about students and their tuition costs.
Western’s reaction
Missouri Western is operating now with no more faculty than in the early nineties with increases in student numbers going off the chart. Look around you. Faculty and staff positions have been eliminated and combined to the point that efficiency is at an all time high.
Class sizes are larger, and demands on instructor’s time is beginning to result in fewer office hours and less access to students. Students may also notice other services and conveniences such as trash removal from some areas is not being done on a daily basis. The lawn has more weeds than usual and some of the maintenance of buildings is being deferred.
Informed students held a rally during the summer months to protest the severe cuts which resulted in the “You can’t keep a Griffon down” slogan. Some have started a petition to voluntarily pay an additional fee to help offset the cuts. Others have signed a petition to the governor to protest the loss of funds.

The future

Western is looking for grants and funding from other sources. Students are paying more now and are likely to pay even higher tuition in the future. Things might get tough but things may get even tougher on Western if Governor Nixon’s new “performance based funding” is not fairly implemented.
If he is going to base funding on the number of entering students versus the number of graduating students than we are set for even more cuts. That will not be fair.
Western serves a unique student base such as me. I have gained in my personal and financial life by the education I have received from MWSU. I have attended off and on since 1978 and have yet to get a degree. I am not alone. Many students are here to learn something. We are not here for the degree. If serving that type of student lowers appropriations Western may not be able to keep its open enrollment policy.
Gov. Nixon needs to realize that not all students are degree seeking students, and I am the poster boy.

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