Messenger: Don’t let Greitens swipe left on Missouri college funding | Tony Messenger

Dear Claudia,

Because of your recent elevation as one of the most famous college students in Missouri, I thought you might be able to help me. Last week, of course, you became an Internet sensation after a fellow Missouri State University student emailed every Claudia on campus to try to find you. It seems he saw your profile on the dating app Tinder, and he swiped left, which dismisses your information. Turns out, he was smitten and meant to swipe right.

You posted his email on your Twitter account and it went viral. But, I read, you also wrote him back. You plan to go get doughnuts on your first date. Good for you.

Here’s something I hope you and the young man talk about:

On the same day you found each other, Gov. Eric Greitens made it likely that your college tuition is about to go up. I am assuming you’ve heard of the governor. MSU has a pretty robust public affairs program, and, besides, he’s been in the news a lot lately, with his admission of an affair, and an ongoing criminal investigation into whether any crimes were committed in relation to that affair.

I’m not sure if the governor ever used Tinder, but he is pretty smartphone savvy. He has used another app called Confide, which erases text messages after they are read. He’s under investigation for that, too.

But I digress.

On Monday, the governor announced his proposed budget for the next fiscal year in Missouri. He cuts about $70 million in spending for the state’s colleges and universities. This comes on top of a cut of about 9 percent in state funding last year. Greitens is not the first governor to cut higher education funding. In fact, in Missouri and many other states, cutting such funding has been a trend for more than two decades. Here’s a thought: If your parents went to college, ask them what they paid in tuition.

Twenty years ago, tuition at the University of Missouri-Columbia was about $3,000 a year. State funding for Missouri’s public colleges and universities — your school was called Southwest Missouri State University at the time — was about the same as it was now.

The result of not letting that spending keep pace with growth and inflation is obvious.

Tuition is going up, and up and up.

In the coming few years, it’s going to get worse in Missouri. If you pay your own tuition, you’re going to feel it. If your parents pay, you might want to let them know what’s coming.

In short, the governor is just not that into you.

The reason that Greitens, and other governors and legislatures in Missouri before him have allowed this to happen is that they’re tax averse. They have adopted a political philosophy that says that taxes are evil, regardless of the state’s commitment to provide for the health and welfare of its citizens.

This year, that tax aversion has created the most delicious of ironies.

The governor says he has plans to cut Missouri taxes even more, while at the same time planning to take out a $250 million loan to help the state pay back tax refunds to residents more quickly. In other words, the state can’t really afford to pay its bills, but it’s going to enact new policies that will make it even harder to pay its bills in the future.

That’s the reality your parents will soon face, particularly if you have any younger brothers and sisters who plan to go to college. The governor and any lawmakers who happen to support his plans to cut college funding won’t say this, but what they are doing is effectively passing on a massive tax increase to middle class parents.

When tuition rises, parents have a choice: Pay the bill or face the reality that their children might not get an education. A few years ago when my son was in college, we ended up taking out loans to pay his tuition. That money then couldn’t be spent on the kinds of things — new cars, appliances, house repairs — that otherwise could feed economic growth.

Think of Missouri’s budget like a doughnut. In the middle is an emptiness caused by the lack of investment that could make universities strong, reduce tuition, build roads, provide health care to those who need it and raises to the lowest paid state employees in the country.

Instead of filling that hole, Greitens wants to eat more of the doughnut.

It’s a shame. Anyway, I’m hoping you can share some of this information with your fellow Claudias and other Missouri college students. Let them know that the governor of Missouri is swiping left on your future.

And this time, it’s no mistake.


Tony Messenger

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