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In a full-page ad published on Nov. 13 in the Columbia Daily Tribune, Republican state Sen. Kurt Schaefer took credit for boosting University of Missouri System funding.
In the ad, Schaefer, who represents Boone County, touted his accomplishments as the chair of the Missouri legislature’s Senate Appropriations committee. Schaefer is wrapping up his second four-year term in the Senate. Barred by term limits from serving another term, he ran for attorney general but lost in the primary election to Josh Hawley.
"I was able to make sure that the University of Missouri, Boone County, and Columbia received much needed funding on a number of important projects," he wrote.
Among his listed achievements was increased funding for the UM System. Schaefer wrote that he helped secure the largest amount of state funding for the four-campus system in the last two years since 2008.
Is he correct? We decided to check it out.
By the numbers
Schaefer cites two amounts for the legislature’s appropriations to the UM System: $434 million for fiscal year 2016 and $448 million for fiscal year 2017. In 2008, the legislature appropriated $431 million to the system’s operating budget.
So, technically, funding has increased. But Schaefer did not take into account inflation or rising enrollment over time.
In today’s dollars, 2008's appropriations to the UM System total $474 million. That’s a lot more than the legislature allotted for the past two years.
Moreover, enrollment has increased.
In the fall of 2015, the total enrollment for the UM System was 59,807 full-time students. The fall of 2015 coincides with fiscal year 2016. Enrollment for 2016 dropped slightly: 57,778 students. By comparison, enrollment in 2008 was 51,012 students.
That means that in 2008, state-appropriated dollars per student totaled $9,300, after the amounts are adjusted for inflation. In 2015, the amount per student was significantly lower – $7,256 — a 22 percent decrease.
A contentious relationship
Schaefer was an outspoken critic of the UM System following student protests at MU last year.
The protests, which began after students said administrators failed to address racism on campus, culminated in the resignation of then-UM System President Tim Wolfe in November 2015.
Schaefer lambasted MU’s handling of Melissa Click, a professor who stoked tension on the day of Wolfe’s resignation when she asked for "some muscle" to remove a student journalist from a protest.
In January, Schaefer and more 100 other legislators signed letters urging the UM System Board of Curators to fire Click. The curators voted to fire her in February.
He also proposed a legislative commission this year to scrutinize the UM System’s structure, including its diversity programs.
Angry about a lack of university leadership during the protests, legislators advocated cutting the UM System’s budget. Schaefer supported that effort, though he took strides to lessen the proposed cuts. The legislature cut appropriations to the system by $3.8 million for fiscal year 2017.
Schaefer praised his work on the Senate Appropriations Committee, citing increased funding for the UM System as one of his accomplishments.
But it’s clear from the data that state funding has not kept pace with rising inflation. In reality, state funding for the UM System has decreased considerably since 2008, despite what Schaefer wrote in his ad.
We rate his claim Mostly False.
Columbia Daily Tribune ad published by Kurt Schaefer, Nov. 13, 2016
Missouri Department of Higher Education, enrollment figures and state appropriations
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