Fair Warning: Missouri Faces Dire Educational Deficits

February 27, 2018

To: Governor Eric Greitens, Members of the Missouri Legislature, and Missouri Residents

From: Educational Leaders, Employers, and Communities Struggling to Succeed

We see ahead a desolate educational landscape, one in which neither communities nor the economy can thrive. We sound the warning now, out of concern and obligation to current and future generations that call Missouri home.

As a society, we have long since agreed that a high school diploma is not sufficient for viability in the current and future workforce, yet Missouri is quickly creating a dangerous set of conditions for students who pursue public postsecondary education in the community college, technical, or university sectors.  For the second year in a row the Governor has proposed massive cuts to higher education and the General Assembly to date has done nothing to counter those cuts.  Endangering Missouri’s students endangers Missouri’s economy. 

We have come together as signatories, united in our obligation to warn against the developing actions of the state of Missouri regarding postsecondary education. There is still time to change the direction being set by our elected officials, but the matter is more than urgent.

The steps are straightforward: 

Stop slashing budgets and forcing up prices. It is students who pay for the dramatic cuts made to higher education.  In 2016, the higher education budget was cut by $159 million.  In 2017, the Governor proposes cutting an additional $68 million.  You don’t need an advanced degree to forecast a decline in quality and a steep increase in tuition at Missouri’s public institutions. SB912/HB2348 is an admission that tuition increases are the only answer to the starvation diet being served to Missouri’s schools. The last round of cuts raised fees on the backs of students and slashed student support services; higher tuition and program elimination are next.

Quit ignoring desperate financial need among your constituents. There’s a simple truth here.  Access Missouri is the state’s only need-based scholarship and it continues to be dramatically underfunded.  The state is stretching $76.5 million across 45,000 students, resulting in an average award of just $1,600, barely above the statutory minimum.  This is evidence of a continued disregard for hardworking families across the state who cannot afford the cost of college. 

Missouri seems to be seeking to perfect the recipe for long-term decline: slash budgets for higher education, force up prices, and ignore constituent financial need.  As a result, the state and its residents can expect:

  • Declining enrollment
  • Reduced numbers of degrees, at every level
  • Increasing burden of bad debt
  • Underprepared workforce and faltering economy
  • Shrinking number of businesses locating or remaining in Missouri
  • Escalating indicators of poor outcomes in physical and mental health, civic engagement, and economic stability.

Driving tuition upward is a mistake. Freezing or cutting aid is a mistake.  Taking these actions simultaneously is a formula for disaster.  Governor Greitens, Members of the Missouri Legislature, and Missouri Residents: Please consider yourselves forewarned.


Karissa Anderson, Active Advocacy Coalition

Scott Baier, Executive Director, College Bound, St. Louis Graduates Steering Committee member

Dr. Elizabeth Bender, St. Louis Graduates Steering Committee member

Jane Donahue, President, St.Louis Public Schools Foundation

Dr. Sherry Harsch-Porter, Porter-Bay Insight, St. Louis Graduates Steering Committee member

David Hilliard, St. Louis Graduates Steering Committee member

Ron Jackson, Chair, Black Leadership Roundtable

Greg Laposa, Vice President-Education Strategies, St. Louis Regional Chamber, St. Louis Graduates Steering Committee member

Dr. Jason Purnell, Associate Professor, Brown School of Social Work

Faith Sandler, Executive Director, The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, St. Louis Graduates Steering Committee member

Dr. Sharon F. Sevier, L.P.C., Director of Advocacy, Missouri School Counselor Association (MSCA)

Mark Steinlage, President, Missouri Association of College Admission Counselors (MOACAC)

Kyle Strothmann, Government Relations Chair, Missouri Association of College Admission Counselors (MOACAC)

Allison Williams, Co-Chair, St. Louis Graduates

Rev. Starsky D. Wilson, President & CEO, Deaconess Foundation

Laura Winter, Project Director, St. Louis Graduates