The Midland Empire’s regional public universities need two things from state policymakers: funding appropriate to their vital missions and a fair shake.

We are hopeful for the important work that has begun to shift funding to a new model that places increased value on “performance.”

But this effort will have our continued support only as long as it values our institutions’ individual needs and respects how much they mean to our region, our young people and our future.

Missouri Western State University and Northwest Missouri State University could in fact be winners under a new funding formula that is in the early stages of development. It is thought that in coming years, all public institutions of higher learning will have a percentage of their state funding tied to performance on specific goals.

Some measurements under consideration: success in retaining students from their freshman to sophomore years, the percentage of students graduating in a timely fashion and the success rates for students taking licensure or job placement exams.

These few ideas hold the potential for marked improvements that will benefit students and return greater value to taxpayers.

We have seen the numbers, and we understand our colleges and universities simply must do a better job of graduating students within a reasonable time. When students must work nearly full time to pay for their education, their progress on degrees will slow. When costs require students to limit their class loads, degree attainment is put off or abandoned altogether.

As for the transition from freshman to sophomore year, policymakers must accept the problem is shared with the K-12 public education system. Students who struggle with the rigors of college need more than remedial classes; they need better preparation before they arrive, and then they need the kind of supportive academic counseling and mentoring that only recently has gained traction on our college campuses.

Our biggest hope lies in the measures that track outcomes. Both of our regional universities have proven themselves capable of turning out outstanding graduates who compete well against those from peer institutions.

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