by Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin
As the Missouri Senate reviews the 13 appropriation bills that make up the 2020 state operating budget, I believe it is important to keep in mind how vital it is to fund all of our education institutions across the state. I am a firm believer that education is one of the main economic drivers in our state, and without properly trained students, our workforce suffers.
As I learn more about our budget process and how our colleges and universities are funded, I find it necessary to advocate for adequate funding for our state’s community colleges. Out of the 14 public two-year colleges, there are currently 12 community colleges seeking additional funding. In the past, these colleges have not been funded at the same level as traditional four-year universities. To me, it’s concerning that community colleges receive less than 20 percent of the funding provided to our state’s traditional four-year public colleges and universities, despite the fact they provide more than 40 percent of the undergraduate education delivered by our state.
For example, Moberly Area Community College, with campuses in Moberly, Mexico, Hannibal, Macon, Kirksville and Columbia, is one school that has reached out for additional support due to being severely underfunded by the state. In Fiscal Year 2019, MACC received only $1,895 per student, whereas the University of Missouri System received $7,976 per student. In my mind, this funding level fails to recognize the value offered by this school. With accelerated class schedules, students can receive training and be out in the workforce in record time. Students who can graduate quickly and with very low debt can help alleviate our workforce shortage while pursuing the career of their choice. This is a formula for lifelong success.
In rural areas, our students can access a great education at any of the Moberly Community College campuses. This is what today’s students are seeking, course access and shortened timelines. I believe if we do not invest in our community colleges, we cannot expect our technical and industrial workforce to grow. Unfortunately, a stagnant workforce could result in a downturn in our state’s economy.
Investing in our communities begins with investing in our students. As a state senator, I plan to work with my colleagues to ensure that our community colleges receive the funding they need.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-7985. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.