JEFFERSON CITY — During a Tuesday morning rally in the crowded Capitol Rotunda, University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe emphasized the importance of increased funding for STEM education across the system's four campuses.
Participants in the 40th annual UM Legislative Day started the day of legislator visits with the rally, which featured Wolfe and Gov. Jay Nixon.
Echoing his State of the State address last month, the governor touted Missouri's hold on low tuition rates in the past five years and fast-growing technology rates, which he said were the fastest growing in the country. Nixon also praised UM System administrators for "answering the call" for an undergraduate tuition freeze for the 2014-15 academic year.
Ultimately, Nixon's message was simple: "Good schools help create good jobs," he said, also noting that Missouri's unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2008.
He left the specifics to Wolfe, who asked lawmakers to "reflect the value we provide" in their budgetary consideration. Wolfe laid out the system's legislative priorities, including retaining core funds, investing in STEM — or science, technology, engineering and math — and using state funds to support capital projects.
Wolfe said Missouri will need to double the number of graduates in STEM fields to meet the existing demand for graduates in the field. He said that additional funding for these fields will enable the universities to invest in faculty and facilities to support program growth. STEM booths on the third floor of the rotunda, which were set up for the event, highlighted the universities' achievements in the field.
Across the four campuses, the system faces $1.3 billion in repair and renovation projects. The universities have raised private funding dollars and will ask legislators to match their amount through a bonding initiative.
According to organizers, nearly 400 participants registered for the Legislative Day. Attendees ended the day with the Legislative Issues panel in the House lounge, which allowed them to engage with the legislators directly.