Missouri’s Governor, Eric Greitens, recently cut approximately $146.4 million from the state budget because of poor economic growth, which led to reduced revenue. According to the governor’s website, over the next 16-18 months, $700 million in cuts will be made in order to “balance the unbalanced budget.” Although Greitens promised that no money would be taken from K-12 education, approx. $82 million will be cut from higher education. More specifically, $12 million of that will be taken from community colleges. According to an article on the governor’s website,
“The restrictions were targeted, to the extent possible, at rolling back earmarks, new spending items, programs with no established rate of success, and services that are duplicated elsewhere in government.”
Dr. Hal Higdon has been Chancellor of Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) in Springfield, MO since 2006, and was wary of the budget plans made in the election year; even so, the college budgeted conservatively. A plan was made in October to offer early retirement incentives, which led to 24 people retiring; 19 of whom weren’t replaced, which covered the loss of money from the state without any layoffs. In other words–this won’t affect OTC students quite yet.
Not to say that it won’t affect them in the future; A+ is a program in Missouri that, if the student fulfills the appropriate requirements, can go to a community or technical college with free tuition. Although the A+ Program’s funds weren’t increased for next year, the continuous spell of cuts coming in the future may lead to a rise in tuition.
Although Higdon defended the governor by saying that the financial hole Missouri faces isn’t Greitens’ fault, the OTC Chancellor disagrees with his unfair treatment of K-12 and higher education. Higdon said:
“Most states that I’ve dealt with treat all education the same; Missouri doesn’t – it disproportionately cuts higher ed., and then doesn’t cut K-12, which I think is a mistake . . . I disagree with his not spreading the cut across all sectors of education. That tells me he doesn’t value community college students or university students as much as he does K-12.”
On the other hand, a lot of community college students are confident in the new governor. Sarah Buxton is in her last year at OTC and is involved in the political landscape. She is a student ambassador and chair of OTC College Republicans. She was also more recently elected as Secretary of the State Board of the Missouri Federation of College Republicans. Buxton spent the recent election volunteering in Greitens’ campaign office and attended many different events during the election season. The OTC College Republicans even hosted Jay Ashcroft, now Secretary of State in Missouri, in the boardroom of OTC. She commented:
- "Governor Greitens is displaying to the state of Missouri his incredible leadership skills. He has surrounded himself with a great team that is willing to make the tough choices in order to benefit Missourians."
Although a strong supporter of community college and no stranger to the benefits of attending two-year schools, Buxton believes Greitens is doing the right thing for Missouri and the state budget. Because Missouri is spending more than constitutionally allowable, the priority should be to cut whatever isn’t in need of government assistance.
Buxton believes it is logical to not cut all sectors of education equally, because teachers in K-12 schools are more likely to spend their own money on supplies and teaching material than a college professor. OTC Chancellor Higdon, on the other hand, believes it is detrimental to the growth of the state. According to the Missouri Department of Education, there are 518 school districts. Higdon believes some tough choices should be made on both levels of the educational aisle. He commented:
“In most states you don’t have towns with schools with less than 500 students in them. We have tons of them. We can’t afford those any longer. Missouri has to make some tough choices. We probably need to close 120 school districts, [and] we may need to close some community colleges and universities.”
And it’s not just community colleges that are being affected – $56 million in cuts will be directed at public universities. For Liberty North High School student in Kansas City, MO, Isaac Keller received a full ride scholarship to Missouri Western State University.
Keller and his debate partner, Mac Newton, attended a national tournament in December at Dowling Catholic High. They worked roughly five hours a night researching and preparing. They were the big winners of the tournament; they were awarded 1st and 2nd speakers out of all the competitors. That caught the eye of Missouri Western State University’s debate coach, who offered Keller a full ride with academic and debate scholarships. Mac and Isaac ended their invitational season with 51 wins and seven losses in Public Forum debate and qualified for nationals this summer in Birmingham, AL. But because of the recent cuts, Isaac's full ride scholarship was taken away and Missouri Western’s debate program was cancelled. Keller shared:
“I felt crushed, kind of like it didn’t matter that I had worked 50 to 60 hours a week. It was so disappointing and I knew I wasn’t the only one. It’s just upsetting to me that one politician and his agenda can rip away my goals and opportunities.”
After this happened, Keller shared what happened to him on Twitter. Check out the original tweet here:
Although there are some who don’t think these cuts are beneficial to the state of Missouri, OTC student Buxton is feeling more optimistic. She shared:
“It may take some time and some creative use of resources, but in the end, the state will finally have a balanced budget… No matter what political party you affiliate yourself with, there is no argument that Eric Greitens truly cares about people. This is a man that deeply cares about the citizens of Missouri and I am so very proud to live in a state where he is governor.”
Lead Image Credit: Kristina Bridges-Templeton