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Missouri S&T Looks To A Future With More Private Investment, Less State Funding

Missouri S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani in a 2019 file photo.
File photo |Tom Wagner
Missouri S&T
Missouri S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani said in his State of the University address that the university cannot rely on receiving funding on the state.

ROLLA — Missouri University of Science and Technology Chancellor Mo Dehghani used his State of the University address to talk about big plans for a $300 million gift from an alumnus and to caution that state funding isn’t a long-term guarantee.

He’s in his 16th month on the job. Just last month, Fred and June Kummer gave the largest gift ever to a Missouri university.

Some of the details of what the gift will be used for are starting to come together. The money will fund 500 undergraduate scholarships and 100 Ph.D. research grants. It will also endow various faculty and department chair positions, Dehghani said.

A main thrust of the donation will be to bring private companies to Rolla and campus to take on joint research projects, he said.

Dehghani said S&T’s success will depend on attracting the attention of large funders of engineering and science research, such as government agencies and major corporations. He said such organizations need more than just college faculty to bring their efforts to Rolla.

“They are not going to fund large-scale projects if those projects are going to be managed by pure academics,” Dehghani said. “They want a dedicated engineering and research workforce on those projects.”

Dehghani said there will still be ample opportunities for faculty, graduate students and undergraduates to participate in the work.

Bringing in the private sector will also fulfill a major goal of the Kummer gift: economic development in Rolla and the surrounding area.

“It’s a fact. We have not really contributed as much as we should have to the economy of the region. And this is our golden opportunity to do so,” Dehghani said.

While the Kummer gift is being viewed as a transformational boon to S&T and Rolla, it does not mark the end of the campus’ plan for growth. Dehghani said S&T needs increased enrollment, private investment via research projects and gifts to the university to reach its potential.

The university needs to push for continued financial stability because receiving state funding in the future is not guaranteed, he said.

“I promise you the state support for the institution is not going to increase in the next 20 years. If anything, it is going to decrease,” Dehghani said. “We went from a state university to a state-supported university, to a state-assisted university, and we’ll just simply be a university in the state, if we’re lucky and we continue to get the level of support that we get. But we can’t rely on luck.”

Missouri ranks 45th among the states in higher education funding per capita, and funding per student enrolled in public universities has gone down 23% over the past decade.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.