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Why Missouri's higher education chief says the pandemic made online learning less popular

Courtesy of the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development
Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education Zora Mulligan

Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education Zora Mulligan is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where she talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Sarah Kellogg, Kate Grumke and Jason Rosenbaum about some of the challenges for the state’s colleges and universities.

Mulligan has served in her post since 2016. Before that, she was chief of staff for the University of Missouri System — including during a time of great turmoil for the University of Missouri-Columbia. The West Plains native was recently announced as one of three finalists to be executive vice president and provost at Missouri State University in Springfield.

Here’s what Mulligan discussed on the show:

  • Some of the biggest challenges in higher education right now, including persuading prospective students to come to the state’s colleges and universities.
  • The state’s role is in higher education — including explaining how the Coordinated Board of Higher Education often makes key decisions for public institutions.
  • How students, faculty and staff responded to the proliferation of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Mulligan said that technology like Zoom made advising appointments more convenient, she’s received feedback that people at higher education institutions prefer in-person learning.
  • How Missouri plans to spend a good chunk of federal funds from what’s known as the American Rescue Plan on capital improvement projects at colleges and universities — and whether there’s opportunities to spend the funds on things other than buildings.
  • With mental health care at colleges and universities a significant concern, what the state’s role is in making sure services are available to students who are struggling on campus.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

Follow Kate Grumke on Twitter: @KGrumke

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Zora Mulligan on Twitter: @zzmulligan

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.
Kate Grumke covers the environment, climate and agriculture for St. Louis Public Radio and Harvest Public Media.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.