Community Colleges Vital to State’s Economy
Missouri finds itself at a critical moment. The decline in state revenue and growth in expenses leaves state decision makers with a budget gap that is estimated at $700 million. Those of us at community colleges understand the difficult decisions the Governor has to make and the difficult situation the state is in.
We recognize that the decline in state revenue is real. And we believe that the only way to change the trajectory of Missouri is to grow our state’s economy.
East Central College and the other community colleges in Missouri have a vital role to play in this important work. Moreover, we believe it is important to recognize what cuts to higher education mean to our long term economic health and social wellbeing.
Restricting the ability to fulfill our mission means Missouri will not produce the workforce that our state’s businesses need. We cannot grow the economy without a skilled workforce. As I talk with employers, large and small, they share a common concern: they are worried about having the workforce to do the jobs they need done. This is the number one issue in economic development. Cutting higher education is cutting a skilled workforce, and it’s the very worst thing we can do for our economy.
Even more important is the need for thoughtful, educated, creative, and talented individuals who share in a commitment to improving our state. These individuals are our students, our graduates.
Like the state, a community college has to live within its means. A reduction in revenue means more than belt tightening. It is likely to mean reduced services and increased costs for students.
I worry about the effect on those who will find it harder to afford college. I worry about the individual who will not be able to attend. I worry about the communities who will not benefit from the contributions these individuals would otherwise provide.
For nearly 50 years, East Central has served this region. We will continue to do so, even in challenging budgetary times. But a reduction in resources comes at a cost. We look forward to working with decision makers to develop a new plan for the state, one which values education, the individuals who are looking for an upward path, and the many stakeholders who depend on a well-educated and expertly trained citizenry.
We can do this. We can show a better path forward. We are, after all, Missourians.
Dr. Jon Bauer
East Central College