Dear Governor Greitens,
We are writing to ask the question on the mind of every public college and university across the state: What the hell?
We understand the need for budget cuts and that to balance the Missouri state deficit things had to change. However, we are a little curious why you chose to take a majority of the deficit out on higher education to “improve the Missouri workforce.”
With the decision coming from a man who has had academic opportunities galore – USA-All American Academic, Rhodes Scholar, and a doctoral graduate – your general disinterest in the education and enrichment of Missourians is, for lack of a better word, disgraceful.
We understand that your experience with higher education might be skewed by the larger institutions you’ve attended, or by the fact that your wife is a professor at one of the largest schools in the state. But coming from a small university filled with non-traditional students, single parents and first generation college graduates, we feel it’s incredibly disheartening to know you can’t see the bigger picture here.
When you make these cuts, you aren’t just taking opportunities away from young, 20-something college kids. You are robbing single parents of the chance to advance their careers and provide better lives for their children. You are hindering opportunities for educational advancement for people from low income areas. You are taking away equity opportunities from the arts and shutting down community programs.
Your solution for the universities: raise tuition. That’s not a good enough solution due to the fact that Missouri state tuition cannot exceed the cost inflation, which usually crunches down to approximately two percent. At a time when state appropriations account for a majority of institutions budgets, you have driven us into a corner.
In addition to you hastily withdrawing state-allocated funding, you have also yet to appoint new members to several Missouri institutions’ curating boards, including Western’s Board of Governors. You have failed to have Nixon’s appointees confirmed, and have yet to suggest any of your own replacements. This leaves a number of vacancies, meaning with all the changes being made to the budget, there will be fewer people on these boards making executive decisions that affect Missouri colleges and universities.
While you may argue college isn’t the appropriate path for everyone and justify your decision to cut funding as “tightening the belt,” it is unfair to assume individuals not pursuing higher education don’t need service training or apprenticeship. You have no problem withholding funds to higher education to ensure a stronger workforce, but we have yet to see a genuine initiative for the advancement of the working class.
You are forcing universities to make up for lack of state allocations by cutting programs and increasing student fees, and you are bullying people out of pursuing higher education in hopes that they will take low paying jobs in the labor force. This isn’t going to guarantee jobs for the state, and in some ways might encourage citizens to leave the state all together, but it will cause an infinite amount of grief for future students, educators and administrators.
Its hypocritical of someone with your educational background to bully Missourians into thinking a college education isn’t valuable. When the general population is better educated, it will function more efficiently. We hope you reflect on the opportunities you have been given throughout your academic career and strongly urge you to reconsider what you are doing to higher education.
The Griffon News