UM System fights for funding

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JEFFERSON CITY - Friends, faculty and alumni of the University of Missouri System had the chance to speak face to face with lawmakers about restoring its funding on Wednesday. 

UM System Legislative Day allows for all four campuses to come together and remind lawmakers of the impact of their universities. 

John Fougere, a UM representative, said given the threats of recent budget cuts, leadership really wants to focus in on the economic impact of the universities. 

“I think the biggest point we are trying to make to them is all the great things the University of Missouri has always done… the education, the research, the health care, the economic development," Fougere said. 

He said that cutting funding would hurt both students and the state's economy. 

“When our funds are drastically cut, that means that it is harder for students to attend the university, tuition could go up, financial aid can go down," Fougere said. "Much more of our future as far as students, will look to go elsewhere to go to college and leave the state and probably never come back. That’s going to hurt our economy down the line.”

The House Select Budget Committee voted to cut roughly $7.6 million from funding for the UM System Administration Tuesday. 

Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, said, as a legislature, they have failed to fix the real problems going on, especially on MU’s campus, and now all four campuses and the state will suffer. 

"We need to make sure that environment is good for all the students, and no one seems to want to address that issue. And the university will have no other choice once we start cutting to increase tuition,” she said. "This cut is not just going to hurt the MU campus, it's going to hurt the entire University of Missouri System."

However, this sentiment is not shared by everyone at the Capitol.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, proposed a resolution to establish a review commission for the UM System Tuesday. 

Schaefer said he feels that UM receives too much of the state’s money to not be held accountable for what he refers to as a lack of leadership over the university’s recent race-related issues. 

“That's taxpayer money and I think they should be held accountable for that,” he said. 

Fougere said leadership has been working tirelessly regain trust of Missouri lawmakers. 

“We are always open to ways that we can improve, but the main point we want to make is that we will always try to improve,” Fougere said. 

He said he hopes lawmakers will once again see, through their reinforcements, just how essential the University of Missouri System is to the entire state.

“It’s important for all Missourians to understand just what an asset the University of Missouri System is to the state of Missouri and how important it is to strengthen that asset as we go forward.”