You might think that an institution that generates $6 of value for every $1 it receives from the state, attracts national investment, and has been a pillar of the St. Louis community for 162 years would garner some support from Jefferson City. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.
Harris-Stowe State University is Missouri’s lowest-funded state college. So, as a director of a national organization that just held its national conference at Harris-Stowe, I was disturbed when Gov. Mike Parson cut the already underfunded school’s budget by $500,000, a significant chunk of its $9 million allocation.
When my organization, the New Economy Coalition, was looking for a location for our 2018 conference, St. Louis stood out as a great option. Our challenge was that we needed to find a venue that had the capacity to host such a large event but that also aligned with our values. Fortunately, our partners at Solidarity Economy St. Louis ensured us that Harris-Stowe could deliver on all fronts.
In the week that we spent in St. Louis, Harris-Stowe staff, faculty and students went above and beyond, with some of them essentially on call 24/7. They were amazing hosts but were clearly stretched thin.
Its role as a destination for national conventions like ours surely contributes to Harris-Stowe’s economic impact of $65 million per year on the St. Louis region. Harris-Stowe’s role as an educator, however, is far more important. Ninety percent of Harris-Stowe students are Pell Grant-eligible, and Harris-Stowe graduates earn 70 percent more than their peers who only receive a high school diploma.
Gov. Parson promised to prevent wasteful government spending and promote economic growth. When it comes to stimulating the economy, he would be hard-pressed to find a better use of tax dollars than investing in Harris-Stowe.
Anand Jahi • Atlanta
Movement engagement director, New Economy Coalition