The Maneater

Student leaders publish letter to express displeasure with 2019 budget cuts

The letter includes signatures from leaders of all of Missouri’s public universities.

In response to Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ proposed 2019 budget, student leaders from Missouri’s four-year universities published a letter on Monday to express their “deep disappointment” with the budget’s proposed cuts to higher education.

Those who signed the letter on behalf of the University of Missouri were Missouri Students Association President Nathan Willett, MSA Vice President Payton Englert, Graduate Professional Council President Alex Howe and GPC Vice President Glenn Baker. Also listed on the letter were leaders from Missouri State University, Missouri Western State University, Northwest Missouri State University, Southeast Missouri State University, University of Central Missouri, University of Missouri–St. Louis, Missouri S&T and University of Missouri–Kansas City.

“We felt the need to stand up for the future of Missouri,” Willett said.

The letter was first published on Twitter on Jan. 29, one week after Greitens’ budget proposal was first released. The proposal contains a $68.1 million cut to higher education — $43 million of which will come from the University of Missouri System. Higher education is the largest single categorical cut in the proposed budget.

“Budget reductions of this magnitude would undoubtedly cause the rising cost of college to be placed squarely on the backs of students in the form of increased tuition and fees,” the letter reads. “As some of the most affordable opportunities in higher education in the state of Missouri, this price tag is increasingly becoming one which students cannot financially justify. Not only is this an unfavorable outcome for the thousands of college students in our state, but it will leave a scar in the fabric of Missouri for years to come.”

Student leadership concerns over the budget have been growing for years as cuts to higher education have piled up.

GPC Director of State Affairs Mike Hendricks and Director of National Affairs Rachel Owen added their thoughts to the letter before it was approved by MSA and later by the other public schools in the state. However, the letter originated from Willett and MSA.

“It’s just getting to the point where if you keep cutting higher education, it’s not going to simply affect the students the faculty and the staff of all four campuses, it’s going to start affecting all Missourians,” Hendricks said. “The UM System is the second biggest economic driver for the state of Missouri and provides billions of dollars in support for Missouri residents, so if it keeps going down this path, we’re going to keep getting hurt, and there’s going to be no future for the state of Missouri.”

Something that both Willett and Hendricks stressed was their concern that continued cuts to higher education would begin to negatively impact the entirety of the state.

“If you don’t invest in the workforce, business will go to other states,” Willett said.

“There’s only so much the university can keep cutting to try to get the budget they need, and it’s getting to the point where if you keep cutting these things, it’s going to affect these people, and that’s not just students faculty or staff – it’s starting to trickle down to all residents of Missouri,” Hendricks said.

Despite the extensive cuts in the budget and urgent tone of the letter, student leadership remains optimistic that the cuts can be reduced. Willett and the GPC hope that Governor Greitens will visit campus sometime this spring in order to get students’ perspectives about higher education.

Hendricks was also encouraged by the stances of state legislators and Boone County representatives, who were “unified together” against the budget. Those opposed to the proposal include Missouri State Senator Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia.

“I hope they’ll listen to us and hear our voices, but most importantly I want to connect with the people of Missouri,” Willett said.

Edited by Skyler Rossi | srossi@themaneater.com

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