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Missouri universities in line for federal money to upgrade aging buildings

Missouri universities in line for federal money to upgrade aging buildings

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Jesse Hall

Jesse Hall and the columns on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia, pictured on July 28, 2010. Photo by Erik M. Lunsford, elunsford@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Citing better-than-expected revenue collections, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson released nearly $127 million from a pool of funds he’d earlier withheld when the pandemic began last year.

The governor also announced Wednesday that he was funneling $68 million in additional federal funding to the state’s public universities, including more than $5.1 million for the University of Missouri-St. Louis to use to upgrade aging facilities.

Parson last year restricted $448 million in the current budget in anticipation of a loss of tax revenue because of COVID-19.

He said some of that could now be released because the state’s economy is in better shape than expected.

He said Missouri continues “to outpace our economic recovery forecast, which is why we were able to release these funds today.”

“This is great news for our overall state and economy,” said Parson, a Republican.

Nearly $26 million of the newly released money will go to the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, and another $1.5 million will go to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Money for universities will help upgrade long neglected buildings in need of upgrades.

“Taking care of an old building may not seem as exciting as putting up a new one, but it’s an investment in the future and an essential act of stewardship,” Commissioner of Higher Education Zora Mulligan said.

The University of Missouri’s flagship campus is in line for $20.1 million. Harris-Stowe State University will get $549,415.

That money, however, is just a small portion of what is needed, according to a 2018 study that found universities need as much as $1.5 billion for needed maintenance.

The report said UMSL has $199 million worth of maintenance projects.

Harris-Stowe has $10.9 million in maintenance needs.

The governor also is steering $4 million in federal emergency relief money to St. Louis Community College’s Forest Park campus for an on-campus child care facility.

“With this funding, St. Louis Community College in Forest Park will for the first time be able to offer on-site child care by repurposing existing space into a 15,000 square foot facility that will serve up to 60 children at any given time. This facility will be crucial to ensuring children remain safe and educated while student parents receive training for high-demand jobs,” Parson said.

“In addition to providing quality child care, this facility will allow students in Early Childhood programs to gain on-site experience that will expand child care options in St. Louis,” said Missouri Department of Social Services Acting Director Jennifer Tidball. “This facility will enable parents on campus to focus on their job or education while their children are learning developmental skills.”

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