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Report highlights crumbling higher education conditions

November 28, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — As much as $1.5 billion needs to be spent on Missouri’s higher education institutions to address a backlog of maintenance projects, according to a new report.

The problems include cracked and peeling paint, water-damaged ceilings and walls, buckling floor tiles, elevators that no longer meet code and aging plumbing, the Missouri Department of Higher Education found in its report .

The state’s flagship University of Missouri campus in Columbia needs an estimated $404.2 million for maintenance, according to the report. Despite new facilities being built on the Columbia campus in recent years, the report shows over 40 percent of the classrooms and other facilities on the main campus have not had a major renovation in more than 50 years. An additional 28 percent of the buildings have not had a major renovation in more than 25 years, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch .

Part of the problem for all of the state schools stems from a state law limiting tuition from being raised above the rate of inflation. That leaves individual schools to rely on the state for added infrastructure costs. In recent years, however, state funding for higher education institutions has significantly declined.

The most recent state budget restores $68 million that former Gov. Eric Greitens tried to cut from state universities and community colleges. But higher education has faced an overall reduction of $221 million, resulting in less spending on repairs and maintenance.

“Unfortunately, several negative trends outlined in this report have negatively affected learning environments for students, teaching environments for faculty, and lab space for researchers,” wrote Doug Kennedy, chairman of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

Kennedy said in the report the agency plans to make its case for help to the Legislature.

The report notes that a lack of action could drive up the cost of repairs in future years.

“Many of these issues cannot be resolved in the short term as capital projects and budgeting is often a multiyear process. As a result, many of these conditions will worsen before they are addressed, significantly increasing costs,” the report said.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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