Editorial: State legislators need to make the ‘Missouri Promise’

Our state is creating a deadly precedent when it comes to education funding, and it’s time for that to change.

Gov. Jay Nixon recently decided to withhold state funding originally intended to match donor funds to finance four construction projects on MU’s campus. The decision came due to lower tax revenue than the state initially anticipated. MU raised roughly $35 million from private donors to be matched by the state for four construction projects.

The hold being put on the 50-50 fund match program by Nixon is yet another example of the state withholding the funding necessary for the university to progress as an institution. Time and time again, The Maneater editorial board finds itself writing editorials about the total lack of adequate funding from the state, and despite the nearly universal call from Missouri’s public schools and universities for adequate funding, so little has changed.

According to the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Missouri is ranked 31st in college enrollment rate of high school graduates. Some of our neighboring states receive 46 percent more higher education funding than we do. Our state has already gained a lackluster track record with educational funding. If funding is continually withheld from educational institutions, then a dangerous precedent will be set, cementing our place toward the bottom of lists like these.

However, we see hope in a new initiative headed by Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel. The “Missouri Promise” would potentially offer reduced or fully paid tuition to students who achieved a 3.0 GPA throughout high school and have a consistent volunteer record. Those students must also maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout college. Zweifel plans to fund the program by a tax increase in tobacco products that could potentially bring in upwards of $300 million for educational funding.

This is the kind of legislation that the state of Missouri should be taking very seriously. With continued instances of withholding funding from educational institutions, now is the time for our legislators and our fellow citizens to truly consider the value of education and what this initiative could mean for bright students.

If this tobacco tax hike does occur, however, then the state of Missouri will no longer have the lowest tobacco tax in the country. But this is a miniscule sacrifice to pay for a higher participation rate in higher education.

Which do we as a state want to promote more: potentially helping thousands of bright, talented students receive affordable education, or maintaining the cheapest cigarette prices in the country?

We ask that Missourians keep an open mind when considering this program. While the details of the program have yet to be made official, the program itself establishes an important precedent for the state of Missouri. This program has the opportunity to be molded into a bill that could change Missouri’s education system for the better, and that should be something we are all open.

To the legislators in Jefferson City: we are tired of writing this editorial. Education is the cornerstone to creating more jobs in the near future, let alone being intrinsically invaluable in and of itself. A change needs to be made if we want to better the future of students and Missourians, and the “Missouri Promise” has the potential to be that change.

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