Our Opinion: Making progress toward equitable funding

When it comes to a state funding mechanism, Lincoln University is the Rodney Dangerfield of higher education: no respect. But that might be starting to change.

LU and the University of Missouri are "land grant universities." In 2000, the federal government mandated states start matching the federal funding for land-grant universities, according to a Missouri Independent/News Tribune story we recently published. In fiscal year 2021, MU used $17 million from its regular $428 million state tax appropriation to match available federal funds, according to a university budget document.

However in the last 22 years, Lincoln, an HBCU (Historically Black College or University), has not been able to fund a full state match from its much smaller state appropriation, the story reported. In fiscal 2021, lawmakers added $3.9 million to Lincoln's regular $21.6 million in state tax funding to help it pay its match.

And every federal dollar the state doesn't match for Lincoln must go back to the federal government. Last year, Lincoln received a 50 percent state match -- or $4.9 million of the required $9.75 million -- which was only the second time the university had received as much as a 50 percent match from the state.

Gov. Mike Parson's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $5.2 million for Lincoln's land-grant funding -- again about half of the required match. However this session, there's a bipartisan push to get the full required state funding.

"It seems like the University of Missouri always gets the full funding of the land grant," Rep. Dave Griffith, R- Jefferson City said, "and Lincoln University is kind of like the red-headed stepchild."

Griffith has asked the House budget chair to back LU's full land grant funding, but hasn't received an answer.

But Griffith isn't the only one making the push.

"I think it's only fair ... that way Lincoln could get 100 percent of their match from the federal government, which would benefit all of us in farming and across the whole state of Missouri with our research," Rep. Jamie Burger, R-Benton, said in the story we recently published. "I feel very strongly about that."

Anyone who is familiar with the legislative process at the Capitol knows progress often isn't measured in days or weeks. It often takes years, even for good legislation/funding.

LU, headed by new President John Moseley, will continue to push for equitable funding. It might take longer than all of us prefer, but we believe the university will make progress.

News Tribune