New Legislative Caucus Supports UM System Universities

Bipartisan group of 13 represents UMKC and the three other universities

A group of Missouri state legislators have formed a new bipartisan caucus to support the University of Missouri System and its four universities, including the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The 13 legislators in the caucus all graduated from or represent one of the system’s four campuses. The group is led by state Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, and Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia. The group announced themselves at a Feb. 21 press conference in Jefferson City with UM System President Mun Y. Choi.

“As far as students that are served, areas they are going into, research being done, what that research means as an economic output in our state, that’s the story that needs to be told,” Rowden said, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

"I believe very much in the mission of our university system, and want to see it succeed," Razer said, quoted by the News Tribune of Jefferson City. Razer is a University of Missouri-Columbia graduate, and his House district borders the UMKC campus.

Razer noted state funding is only around a quarter of the funds each campus needs to operate — 27 percent at UM-St. Louis, 24 percent at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla), 23 percent at UMKC and only 20 percent at Columbia.

"It is time that we fund our universities at a rate that they deserve," Razer said, according to the News Tribune, "and I look forward to spending my time in the General Assembly working toward that goal."

More from the News Tribune:

"In the last two years, we have cut and re-allocated $180 million, so that we can fund those programs that are critical for us," Choi said.

Just in the first five months of the current business year, that began last July 1, he said, "We were able to raise $80 million for scholarships, primarily for need-based students and our outstanding students in Missouri, so that they don't go outside of our state — so, we are reversing the 'brain-drain.'"

Still, he said, better legislative support for the UM System is important, because "We can be the engine for economic development. We can be the engine for research that cures cancer.

"We can be an institution that enlivens our lives through music, art and the humanities."

More from the Columbia Daily Tribune:

“Hopefully, this is a long-term caucus of looking at how we fund higher education in general,” Razer said. “Moving it forward, we have seen the (higher education) budget flatlined for some 20 years now. ... That’s not sustainable.”

The system is getting back to its basics, Choi said at the morning announcement. It developed a strategic plan two years ago that focused on excellence in student success, research and engagement, he said.

“We have a new mission and that mission is to make a difference to our students and Missourians every single day, Choi said.

 

Published: Feb 22, 2019
Posted In: Administration
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