Universities lending to states a bad idea

By Michael Hardcastle COLUMNIST
On January 10, 2012

State budget shortfalls seem to be a reoccurring theme across the U.S.

However, though governors are forced to think of increasingly creative ways to plug ever-widening holes, they must also staygrounded in reality to avoid dreaming up ridiculous proposals like Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon did last month.

With a projected$750 million budget gap andhigher education funding expected to take another heavy blow, Nixon considered asking five stateuniversities for a $107 million, interest-free loan, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Nixon wisely decided to scrap the idea last week; however, it is not inconceivable that another state government might try asimilar tactic - perhaps Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is nostranger to wildly unpopulareducation reform ideas.

In Scott's defense, he may be shying away from such tactics. Over winter break, he experienced an Ebenezer Scrooge-like change of heart and demanded a $1 billion increase to education spending, threatening to veto any bill that doesn't comply, according to the Miami Herald.

However, Scott only called for an increase in K-12 funding. His plans for higher education remain to be seen and Florida faces a projected budget shortfall of$1.7 billion, according tothe Herald.

Nixon's tentative loan plan called for only five colleges to foot the $107 million loan using their reserve funds, which would be redistributed as part of the higher education budget to all Missouri's four-year universities andcommunity colleges.

Such a plan may be tooliberal for Florida's conservativegovernor, but the fact that such afoolish idea was seriouslyconsidered, though never officially proposed, is worrisome.

During budget slumps, higher education is hit just as hard, if not harder, than the rest of the state. Nixon's plan would be likerobbing the poor to give to the poor. On top of it, the lendinguniversities would have been repaid by funds diverted from the state's college loan authority, money which was originally intended to financeuniversity building projects,according to the Post-Dispatch.

Missouri State Rep. Ryan Silvey called the idea ridiculous,according to the Post-Dispatch.

"The governor is looking for this scheme that avoids making tough decisions on cuts," he said. "Rather than balance the state's budget, he wants to dream up new revenue sources, which happen to be interest-free loans from our universities."

Unfortunately, highereducation always seems to be onthe chopping block when state cutbacks come around, and it will likely take some out-of-the-box thinking to bolster state budgets.

Though misguided, Nixon's proposal was intended to save the Missouri higher educationsystem from across-the-board cuts. However, even the most creative ideas must be held to the standards of reality and actually be helpful, rather than only seeming so.

Michael Hardcastle is a senior majoring in creative writing.

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