New formula for funding Higher Education

By Katelyn Canon

October 30, 2012

Missouri Western received $1,560 in state appropriations per student in 2012, which is 26.8 percent lower than the average in state appropriation. That may soon change. The Missouri Joint Committee on Education is working to create a new formula for funding higher education with House Bill 1731. President Robert Vartabedian traveled to Warrensburg, Mo., to address the committee on the goals of higher education. “I think now they are just at a stage where their wanting some generic input about higher education and I assume that the Committee on Joint Education will zoom in on some details later,” Vartabedian said. “Right now I think they are just dealing with some broader issues.” By law, the committee is required to establish the appropriation formula by December of 2013 and it will go into effect July 1, 2014. Prior to the Joint Committee forming, higher education lacked a consistent funding formula. “What has happened is we kind of got locked into a formula when we were a much smaller school and then we had some tough financial times, and so we have kind of been punished for growing in many ways,” Vartabedian said. The ‘tough years’ that Vartabedian referred to started in 2007, when Western had to draw $2.6 million from reserves to balance the university budget. Then from 2007 to 2008, the university withdrew an additional $700,000, which resulted in a 10-year low of $4.5 million in reserve funds. According to the Western publication “Seeking a Solution to Unintentional Financial Disparity,” the university has had to cut expenditures by permanently decreasing operating budgets across campus 30 percent and increasing class sizes in most cases to room capacity just to name a few. Vartabedian also said “that by going to Missouri Western, you are not getting the same cut of the pie as other people are at other universities, and we don’t think that’s fair.” Student enrollment numbers and credit hours taken are both being taken into consideration when devising the new funding formula. If total enrollment numbers were considered, Western would receive more state appropriations, placing the university in the same range at other Missouri universities. “I tried to slip in the fact that I know you’re not completely inclined to go on headcount, but I certainly think it should be part of the mix as it is with most states,” Vartabedian said. “That you’re rewarded for growing and you’re not rewarded for not growing, and we have had some pretty significant growth over the past several years such that we are falling more and more behind in terms of per student appropriation.”