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State Tech gets hefty funding boost – Jefferson City News Tribune

State Technical College of Missouri has received an increase in state funding for fiscal year 2022, but the college president said more will be needed for continued growth.

While public universities received a state appropriations increase of 3.7 percent and community colleges received an increase of 7 percent, State Technical College of Missouri saw an increase of 47 percent in state funding across the board.

State Tech was appropriated $8,030,371 in core funding, an increase of $2 million from the previous fiscal year’s core appropriations. Additional state dollars have also been appropriated for campus capital improvement projects.

State Tech President Shawn Strong said the additional core appropriations was a long-term goal started last year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It really is recognizing our growth,” Strong said. “If you look at our growth versus just about anybody in Missouri, even just the last three years, we’re up over 50 percent in our growth.”

Five years ago, Strong said, State Tech was enrolling about 1,256 students, and last fall, the college began the year with 1,927 students.

Brandon McElwain, State Tech marketing director, said the increase in funding will help address the needs of the larger student population.

“A lot of times it’s based on how much it costs to educate the student,” McElwain said.

“With all the equipment we have, all our hands-on labs with semi-trucks, utility poles, drones and robots — all these different things that our programs have — those aren’t cheap labs. They’re expensive to keep up, and when we have more students, of course the demand for that is higher, so the cost to educate a student really, really matters.”

McElwain said the core state funding will go to the college’s general funds, which will pay for campus technology, deferred maintenance, and the staff and faculty equity pool, which helps even the pay rate between employees in similar positions.

The state is also funding the second phase of State Tech’s Utilities Technology Center for $5 million, a separate appropriation coming from the Capital Improvement Budget.

Phase A, which was completed a few months ago and funded through private and state funds, was focused on constructing the indoor utility pole climbing lab and the outdoor utility boring lab.

The second phase will add classrooms, a lab and faculty offices to make the space more functional, McElwain said.

Strong said the second phase will add a lab for the power generation program as it shifts its aim along with the industry from nuclear and toward renewable power generation.

Strong said the college opened bids for the project last week and expects to have money left over for site development and furnishing when complete.

“We’re hopeful that $5 million will completely fund that Phase B,” Strong said.

Despite these increases in state funding, State Tech is lagging behind other higher education institutions in full-time student equivalent appropriations.

In the 2011 fiscal year, State Tech received $4,382 for each enrolled student.

In fiscal year 2022, State Tech is receiving about $4,000 per student.

State Tech is governed and funded like Missouri’s four-year universities and doesn’t benefit from a local taxing system like community colleges do.

“Our funding levels should stay close to the levels of four years, and we’ve definitely lost a lot of ground,” Strong said.

“This doesn’t get us back to where we were 10-15 years ago when we compare ourselves to the colleges and four-year universities.”

Strong said the additional funding is a step in the right direction, but he intends to continue to grow the college, which will require additional state support in the future.

“We did very, very well this year, but in the same sentence, I would say we’re growing faster than anybody, too,” Strong said.