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Interim UM President testifies at higher education committee meeting

A House Appropriations Committee on higher education wrapped up Wednesday afternoon at the state Capitol after hearing presentations from colleges and universities from across the state.

Interim UM System President Mike Middleton was at the Capitol to testify before the committee.

Middleton discussed what a budget cut for the University of Missouri System would mean. He said a budget cut at this time would be devastating to the UM System.

“I can assure you our higher education institution is much, much more than the recent event we have faced.”

The UM System turned in a 153 page document to lawmakers about it’s budget.

The UM System’s Vice President of Finance Brian Burnett also testified at the hearing to answer any questions from lawmakers, and there were a number of them.

One question that stood out was about the donor and endowment program.

Right now, the UM System has $1.3 billion in endowment funds.

Another lawmaker asked about how much money the university was using to investigate current events on campus.

Representative Joshua Peters dug through that more than 150 page document and found some questionable expenses the system has made in the past.

He pointed out the System paid for job candidates to stay in the Ritz-Carlton hotel for several nights in 2014.

Peters said taxpayer dollars should not be going to things like this, and the university needs to be held accountable for where the money is going.

“These are serious dollars and these are serious funds,” he said. “There are universities who are trying to do good deeds and can utilize these dollars instead of them being spent at the Ritz-Carlton hotel and being spent on china glasses for the luxury of some chancellor.”

Representative Stephen Webber agreed that accountability is important, but said cutting the budget would hurt the students.

“We shouldn’t lose sight that the larger goal is that students have access to a high quality education. If we need to change things for accountability we should, but that doesn’t mean we just blindly cut the budget to punish administrators for that,” said Webber.

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