Missouri Gov. Parson halves cuts to state university, community college aid
With state revenues improving, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is restoring some of the budget cuts he made to state aid for public colleges and community colleges over the summer.
In a news conference Wednesday, Parson said he'd unfreeze roughly $38 million he withheld in July, led by $14 million in state aid for four-year colleges and universities and $9.2 million for community colleges.
That means Missouri State University can expect an additional $1.7 million this fiscal year, stemming losses that once threatened to top $11 million and forced salary cuts and pay freezes.
MSU President Clif Smart immediately applauded the decision on Twitter, and said a in a statement he would be talking with advisors about how to best use the money “in the coming weeks.”
Smart also applauded the governor’s decision to restore $3.2 million for Bright Flight scholarships, which work to keep the brightest Missouri high schoolers in-state.
“I advocated for Gov. Parson to release those funds when I met with him in August,” Smart said. “Those funds will help students at Missouri State University and other institutions pay for their education.”
UM System President Mun Choi, whose four campuses are set to get $7.6 million back, the majority of which will go to the flagship Columbia campus, also applauded the news.
“The release of these funds will ensure that we continue to meet our mission for student success, research and engagement programs that benefit Missouri,” Choi said in a statement.
The UM system remains down $40 million in state aid since April; 200 employees had been laid off and more than 3,000 had been furloughed as of mid-August.
Parson’s move will also release roughly $900,000 withheld from Ozarks Technical Community College.
OTC spokesman Mark Miller said the money comes at a time when the college has been buoyed by higher-than-expected enrollment, so it will be set aside in case of further turmoil for now.
“But it’s still great news,” Miller said. “We’re thankful for it.”
Parson said the decision was prompted by better-than-expected revenues for the first quarter of the fiscal year and a declining unemployment rate well below what officials predicted several months ago.
“Thanks to this, we are now in a position to release some of the funding that was restricted,” Parson said.
All told, he restored $38.2 million of the roughly $450 million cut from the Fiscal Year 2021 budget.
Parson said he’s also dedicating $61.5 million in federal coronavirus relief money to supporting K-12 education, roughly half of what he cut in from K-12 education in July, though it was not immediately clear what that would mean for Springfield Public Schools.
Federal coronavirus relief will also go to private colleges, child care providers, and to assisted living and residential care facilities to help them with COVID-related expenses.