Feelings mixed on NWMSU merger with U of M system

Northwest Missouri State University’s Board of Regents voted 7-1 Feb. 7 to merge with the University of Missouri system.

The merger, which still needs approval from the Assembly and the governor, would add more mass to the system that currently includes the University of Missouri-Columbia, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the University of Missouri-Rolla and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The hope of the merger is to expand NWMSU’s student base throughout the state, region and country. It also hopes to increase the number of undergraduates and to provide a seamless transition from an undergraduate degree to a graduate degree within the MU system.

Those opposed to the bill believe the decision is financially based.

“I do not believe a $15,000 chancellor salary increase is a coincidence,” said Rep. Bryan Stevenson (R-Webb City).

“If it is what the university wants and they ask for it, then I believe it is OK,” said Rep. Marilyn Ruestman (R-Joplin).

“I have no objections, as long as it was initiated by NWMSU and it was not based on finances,” said Rep. Kevin Wilson (R-Neosho).

Rep. Steve Hunter (R-Joplin) is an alumnus of NWMSU, and he is not voting for it.

“There are three things wrong with this,” Hunter said. “There would be a tuition increase, it would cost money that doesn’t exist and the alumni are not for it.”

Hunter questioned whether the action had anything to do with the retirement package that would be available to educators in the MU system. Following the governor’s budget proposal for the 2005 fiscal year and the decrease in funding allocated to Missouri Southern, the question has been raised if there is any potential for Southern to one day become part of the MU system.

“Not on my watch,” Stevenson said.

Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) thinks Southern’s geographic, economic and political up make do not make it conducive to become part of the MU system.

“Missouri Southern’s makeup makes it perfect for the people it serves,” Nodler said. “It would lose that if it became part of MU.”

Sen. Ken Jacob (D-Columbia) questioned the need for a university in Joplin, pointing out the distance to SMSU. He believed it would be impractical for Southern to try and compete with MU and would make more sense for Southern to continue to operate at its current level.

“Universities should be competitive to a point, but they need to fit a certain niche, and Southern has found its niche,” Jacob said.