Many people have asked why Ingrams
dedicates such a high degree of editorial focus to education. People wonder,
"What does education have to do with business?" My response
has been very consistent: "Everything." This edition of Ingrams
explores the state of higher education in the region, the many partnerships
that area institutions have established with business and the extensive
growth that has and continues to occur in medical research and the life
In the late 70s, I was among the then 26,000 undergrads at Mizzou,
an institution splitting at the seams with an all-time high enrollment
in an era when program development was intense and growing pains plentiful.
I took most of my coursework in the schools of business and education,
and I fought hard to earn a seat in all the journalism courses I could
sign up for. In my senior year, I taught some business courses and coached
track at Jeff City Highan interesting destination for a kid from
cross-state rival Rockhurst.
In one of the Junior Achievement courses I instructed, I learned a good
deal about human nature. As their project in free enterprise, my students
chose to create an ad-supported high-school year calendar featuring 24
of the areas comeliest young ladies. Not only did this project reap
rewards from JA nationally, but it also worked wonders for my students
social lives. Yet as engaging as this project was, we encountered one
very significant problemspring. As the semester progressed, these
students couldnt focus on their tasks for their lifeand not
many tasks are more attractive.
Im of the belief that this "spring fever" phenomenon may
have contributed to the calamity that has waylaid my alma mater, the other
institutions in the University of Missouri System and all public higher
education in the state. Missouris General Assembly has just concluded,
and Gov. Holden has approved a 37-percent cut in the operating budget
of a fiscal year nearly completed. What happened? Did they get distracted?
Were they eager to get down to the lake? In Kansas, where there is no
lake to speak of, the legislature cut higher education by approximately
3 percent despite a comparable budget shortfall.
The states action has crippled institutions throughout Missouri
and prophesies an even bleaker future ahead. Interestingly, higher education
in Missouri accounts for less than 12 percent of the states $19
billion budget. Despite relatively lean tax revenues, I think it fair
to question how Missouris policy setters can in good conscience
impose such radical measures on educationthe core foundation of
Another consideration is Missouris "Rainy Day Fund." The
fund today is approximately $490 million. I understand a proposed $135
million 3-year loan against this fund was proposed, yet it was denied
at the House. Seems to me that if there were ever a time and a need to
utilize this fund, this might be it.
At the recent Missouri Governors Economic Development Conference,
Bob Holden stated that in these difficult financial times, "Challenges
will yield great opportunities." He shared his belief that Missouri
possesses one of the strongest systems of public education in the nation.
He reported that Missouri is being positioned to become one of the nations
most significant centers of medical research for the life and plant sciences,
a knowledge-based center of entrepreneurial excellence, a magnet for new
business and a destination of choice for skilled workers. "We will
continue to focus on education as our states number one priority,"
the governor proclaimed. As it happens, the governor also reported with
some pride that Missouri was among the first and only states to balance
its budget. It was left to the audience to understand that the balancing
was done on the back of the higher education establishment.
To be sure, the governor said much that was insightful. He announced the
development of a strategic plan, in collaboration with the Kauffman Foundation,
for encouraging and supporting an entrepreneurial culture in Missouri.
And, as he noted sincerely, "The state continues to be interested
and involved in ensuring the success of small business in Missouri."
But one wonders where these business leaders will come from.
Ironically, Missouris budget includes a reasonably aggressive increase
in elementary and secondary education, which would be all well and good
if the kids had someplace to go to college. I would challenge members
of the General Assembly and Gov. Holden to defend their actions. If in
fact the state of Missouri is committed to creating one of the strongest
systems of public education in the nation, how can our elected representatives
substantiate the execution of higher education as theyve just done?
Oh yes, thats right, it was spring.