Lincoln University, State Tech ‘elated’ over higher ed funding

Entrance to the campus of State Technical College of Missouri in Linn.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Legislature approved a record state budget Friday with several high-priority wins for Lincoln University and State Technical College of Missouri.

The state's $45 billion operating budget is supplemented by $4.3 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds. The record budget provides elevated core funding for Missouri's institutions of higher education, funding for a capital improvement project at every public college and university, and full funding for Lincoln's federal land grant match for the first time ever.

"We're elated," LU President John Moseley said.

Higher education funding is primarily split between two bills: HB 3003, the primary higher education funding bill, and HB 3020, the funding bill to appropriate federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress last year.

HB 3003 increased core funding for Missouri's colleges and universities by 5.4 percent. Lincoln is receiving a core appropriation of $19.4 million and State Tech is getting a core appropriation of $8.5 million.

Moseley said the additional core funding will help the university offset rising costs of employee health care and inflation.

With another $9.7 million set aside for Lincoln's land grant match, the Legislature fully funded the program for the first time ever.

As an 1890 land grant institution, Lincoln receives a federal grant worth $9.7 million with the requirement that the state appropriate a match for the same amount. Most years, the state has funded the program at less than half the required amount.

"We are excited about the possibilities and the future based on our ability to have these additional resources to better serve the state of Missouri," Moseley said.

The land grant funds are used exclusively on agricultural research and instruction, which means they will primarily be used to support Lincoln's research and extension services to Missouri farmers and growers.

Moseley said he's confident Lincoln's use of the resources the state provided will demonstrate the value of the investment and show that support for the university is support for the state.

HB 3003 also appropriates $11 million for institutions of higher education to offset contributions to the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System.

State Tech President Shawn Strong said that appropriation will allow State Tech to give faculty a 4 percent raise and help blunt the impact of inflation.

State Tech usually bases employee raises on its growth, Strong said, because fluctuating appropriations from the state make it difficult to count on consistent funding.

"The time will come -- and hopefully it's not next year or the year after -- but we know the time will come that higher education will take a hit at some point," he said. "And when it does, we'll be ready for it. But it makes it a whole lot easier to grow a campus like ours when you have additional revenue. We wouldn't be able to grow like we're growing without the support from the state."

Debate on the budget came down to the wire as both chambers were voting on appropriation bills hours before the constitutional deadline.

HB 3020, a supplemental bill appropriating federal ARPA dollars, was one of the last to be approved in the House.

In his State of the State address in January, Gov. Mike Parson suggested using some of the funds to support transformational projects at each of Missouri's public college and university campuses.

Lincoln and State Tech are each receiving $20 million from the state for construction projects.

Lincoln will use the funds to develop a Health Sciences and Crisis Center. The new part of campus would house the university's life sciences and nursing programs, as well as the police academy and proposed Security Sciences Institute to offer certification and licensing in cybersecurity, emergency management, geospatial information services and criminal justice.

State funding would cover half of the 40,000-square-foot facility to be built in or near Elliff Hall, which currently houses the nursing department at 709 E. Dunklin St. Moseley said the additional space will allow Lincoln to upgrade lab space, grow existing programs and implement new ones.

"We're extremely appreciative," Moseley said. "We understand that this is a point in which the state does have resources. It's not going to be like this every year -- you have to plan accordingly, but for now we appreciate the support."

Moseley said the $20 million appropriation for the building gives Lincoln confidence to approach potential donors about fundraising the dollar-for-dollar match required of the university.

"For us, it's a very exciting day," he said. "We see that there's great possibility with what's taking place."

At State Tech, the $20 million appropriation will be used to expand the campus with 90,000 square feet of new facilities.

"We're probably the smallest school with the biggest project, but we are the fastest growing college in the state, and we are just flat out of room," Strong said. "That is, when we say transformational, that is going to be transformational for us."

The state appropriation will fund a 60,000-square-foot lab near the existing Engineering Technology Center, a 30,000-square-foot lab in front of the Nilges Technology Center and an additional 90,000 square feet of renovation within current facilities.

State Tech celebrated reaching an enrollment of more than 2,000 students last fall, and Strong said the construction will provide room on campus to grow to more than 3,000 students.

"That's going to be a big, big deal for us," he said.

The technical college has grown more than 60 percent in the last five years and Strong said the challenge now is finding space to house programs, particularly lab-intensive programs State Tech specializes in that require a lot of space for equipment and machinery.

The state funding bills now go to Parson to sign into law.

"It was a very good session to us so we're looking forward to the governor signing the budget," Strong said.

Click the links below to read the full bill:

• HB 3003: Higher education appropriation

Sponsor: Rep. Cody Smith

• HB 3020: ARPA appropriation

Sponsor: Rep. Cody Smith

See also:

LU campus construction projects move forward after hours of contentious debate