JEFFERSON CITY — Elson Floyd, president of the UM System, said Friday that the rising cost of college, fueled in part by declining state revenue and manifested in sharp tuition increases, is placing college beyond the reach of some families.
“Many students who manage to go to college are forced to take out student loans that will leave them in large debt upon graduation,” he said.
Floyd was one of a dozen speakers at an education summit called by Gov. Bob Holden. The governor, in preparation for a special session Monday of the Missouri General Assembly, had requested testimony on the implications of state budget cuts to education in Missouri.
Holden said he only signed the latest budget to avoid the shutdown of Missouri schools.
“At that time, I said I would call the legislature back into session in September and offer them one more opportunity to do the right thing and restore some funding back to education,” Holden said. “They will have that chance on Monday.”
Addressing the governor, Floyd — the only speaker on behalf of higher education — asked, “What kind of state do we want to leave for future generations of Missourians?”
He called for the establishment of adequate student financial aid. He also recommended early intervention in elementary or junior high school to put students on track for a college career. “By high school, it’s too late,” he said.
Floyd highlighted Missouri’s low college participation rates, or the amount of Missouri high school students who go on to college. He said Missouri has a participation rate of 38 percent while neighboring states Iowa and Nebraska have rates of 53 and 52 percent, respectively.
“I would assert that an investment in education at every level is an investment in our future,” Floyd said. “That must be sustained through good and bad times.”
Among the speakers on behalf of the state’s K-12 system were Darrell Swofford of the Missouri Parent-Teacher Association and Larry Ewing, superintendent of Fort Osage Public Schools.
Swofford, speaking about how the public schools are losing good people to better-paying jobs, talked about a top-notch math teacher who taught at a middle school in the St. Louis area and is now working for Sprint. “We lost him because of one thing — he wanted to provide better for his family.”