While higher education saw its state funding slashed Tuesday for the new fiscal year, leaders at the University of Missouri System could take solace in one bright spot: $10 million in approved funding for its NextGen Precision Health Institute.

Now, that funding may not come anytime soon.

The $220 million research facility, which the UM System has called its ”top priority” in a news release Tuesday and well before that has seen its progress largely undeterred despite COVID-19’s massive impact on the system.

But the facility’s planned state funding, which would come from an account that stores special federal aid, will be delayed, State Budget Director Dan Haug said Thursday. Whether it comes at all will depend on how the fiscal year and the pandemic play out.

“(NextGen) is still a priority of the governor,” Haug told the Missourian on Thursday. “There’s no funding right now, but if the economy turns around, if we get more federal money, we could put some of that in there. … We recognize that (the facility) can have a significant impact on the health of Missourians in the future.”

Haug called Missouri’s budget situation fluid and said that it would be more than a quarter or six months to get a more clear image on Missouri’s 2021 revenues, which he said he monitors daily.

Earlier this week, Haug told the Springfield News-Leader that “we’re assuming that (NextGen)’s not going to be funded.”

Although the research facility’s funding is delayed, its funding is not permanently cut. UM spokesperson Christian Basi said Wednesday that university leaders “remain very pleased that the governor did not cut the funding for the project in any way.”

“We’ll continue to look forward to having additional discussions about the Precision Health Institute with our elected leaders in the future,” Basi said.

Gov. Mike Parson signed bills approving the fiscal year 2021 budget Tuesday, which included that $10 million for the NextGen facility at issue. UM System President Mun Choi thanked him and state leaders for “continued support” for the project Tuesday.

Parson also announced $448 million in withholdings for the 2021 fiscal year, which began Wednesday, as COVID-19 continues to take a financial toll. Higher education in Missouri will see $28 million in restrictions from that total. The four-campus UM System has taken over $85 million in cuts from the state since March, according to a Tuesday news release.

Those cuts have taken their toll on MU and its employees. As of last Wednesday, the Columbia campus has laid off 148, not renewed contracts for 33 and furloughed 3,011 employees. MU is still considering whether to outsource about 250 custodial positions, which has drawn criticism from unions and others.

  • Galen Bacharier is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. He has reported on higher education, state government and breaking news. Reach him at galenbacharier@gmail.com or on Twitter @galenbacharier.

  • Elizabeth Brixey is the Columbia Missourian's education editor and an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and brixeye@missouri.edu.

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