Former UM president visits campus

Thursday, April 8, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:56 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

C. Peter Magrath, former president of the UM system, returned to MU on Wednesday to give a lecture entitled “How Rocky is the Road Ahead for America’s Universities?”

Magrath served as UM president from 1985 to 1991, and he made a huge impact during his tenure.

“The University of Missouri is the kind of place where I really, truly feel mostly at home,” Magrath said.

His accomplishments include the raising of admission standards, the improvement of university computer resources, and the creation of a university Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Magrath was also the president of the University of Minnesota from 1974 to 1984 and the State University of New York at Binghamton from 1972 to 1974. He is currently CEO of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, a position he took in 1992.

More than 200 public universities, including the UM system, are members of the association, which was founded in 1887 and is dedicated to supporting higher education.

Magrath’s lecture, which was given at 4 p.m. in Cornell Hall Auditorium, was sponsored by the Margaret Wilson Mangel Endowed Lectureship and the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. The lectureship has sponsored a presentation every year since 1977.

College of Human Environmental Sciences Dean Stephen Jorgensen welcomed the audience that had gathered to listen to Magrath’s talk, and Brian Fuller, a senior in the college, introduced the man of the hour.

“There are severe fiscal problems in virtually all of the 50 states,” Magrath told the sizeable audience after starting his lecture.

Magrath explained that state budget deficits, which are increased by things such as federal unfunded mandates, cause governments to withhold money from higher education. State governments cut money from higher education before things such as Medicaid and highways because universities can raise their own money by increasing tuition costs, applying for more research grants and asking alumni for donations.

Ten years ago, 14.7 percent of a university’s income on average came from tuition, but now 20 percent comes from tuition, Magrath said.

Magrath said a college degree is a passport to economic and social success, and he is “fundamentally optimistic about our challenges of the future.”

He recommended that state universities collaborate with businesses and other public universities, and said that tuition increases are necessary.

“Good stuff really costs money,” said Magrath.

Magrath also said tuition shouldn’t be subsidized for affluent students because the money could be used for needier students to reduce the elitism of higher education.

“When I picked him up from the airport this morning, I said, ‘I’m not going to say welcome home, but welcome back,’” Jorgensen said of Magrath.

“But I’d like to say welcome home.”

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