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Our Opinion: Competing for students: A tale of two schools

Our Opinion: Competing for students: A tale of two schools

October 12th, 2017 by News Tribune in Opinion

Lincoln University needs to attract "every student we can get." State Technical College of Missouri needs 250 more students to avoid cuts.

It might not be the worst of times for these two schools, but it certainly isn't the best of times, either. Missouri's public colleges in general are hurting.

They're hurting for students and for operating funds.

Missouri isn't alone. The New York Times reports that in recent years, taxpayer support for public colleges has decreased. In 1987, states kicked in about three quarters of what public colleges spent on education; as of three years ago, they contributed about half. Most of the remainder has to come from tuition.

Tuition revenue has been flat or falling in 73 percent of colleges, the Times reported.

In the case of LU and State Tech, their missions are quite different. LU is an open enrollment school, while State Tech needs students who were strong academically in high school.

"(Lincoln students) come from, and through, life experiences that most students at the other four-year colleges in the state have not had," Interim President Mike Middleton said in Sunday's News Tribune.

State Tech President Shawn Strong, on the other hand, said: "If a kid's not coming out of high school with close to a 3.0 GPA, they're probably not going to make it (at State Tech)."

Both schools have some ideas on how to bolster their enrollments/revenue.

State Tech, facing a shortfall of more than $1.4 million, needs to convince high school counselors that technical college in general — and State Tech in particular — should be the first choice of many students, not a backup.

Lincoln wants to work on its students' success so that they will stay in school to graduation. Then, as alumni, the school hopes they will donate more than current alumni. "Our endowments from our alums and donors are very, very low," Middleton said.

LU also needs to work on "dysfunctional administrative problems" and boosting the number of black faculty members, Middleton said.

One thing is for sure: There's no windfall coming from state revenue any time soon. Both schools, along with others in the state, may have to find out-of-the-box solutions that find ways to do more with less.