Downtown businesses hope fewer cuts mean more students

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COLUMBIA - Boone County legislators from both parties will discuss higher education policy Thursday after Governor Mike Parson proposed zero cuts to higher level institutions in his first State of the State address.

The steady support for colleges and universities across the state is a sharp turnaround in state funding policy from former Gov. Eric Greitens.  Greitens originally proposed cuts around 70 million dollars for higher education.

State Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, Rep. Martha Stevens, R-Columbia, Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville, Rep. Sarah Walsh, R-Ashland and Rep. Chuck Bayse, R-Rocheport, were all invited to discuss their views on higher education at Grand Cru, a Steak and Seafood Restuarant in Columbia, Missouri.

Wally Pfeffer is organizing the event for The Boone County Chapter of the Missouri Alumni Association. He said he's hopeful the candidates will discuss more than just higher education

“We’re expecting around 60 people to show up,” said Pfeffer.  “It will give them a chance to share their opinions on the university and other legislative priorities. We understand they're not just focusing on the university.”

Businesses in downtown Columbia hope the lack of cuts attracts more student to campus. Workers at Calhoun’s, a gift shop in downtown, saidstudents make their businesses profitable.

“Students 100% support the downtown area,” said Gracie Pasley. “They’re down here all the time. We have some COMO merchandise, like shirts and cups and students are the students are the ones who really love it the most. They’re always buying from down here and supporting locally.”

Another worker at Calhoun’s, Hannah Kauffman, talked about students participating in the workforce.

“Most of the students I know are either working or living downtown,” said Kauffman. “They are really the main group eating at restaurants or spending time in the coffee shops. I know anytime I go to a coffee shop on the weekend, they are packed with students.”