Missouri colleges, universities settle dispute over degree offerings in state

Posted: Dec. 27, 2016 4:54 pm

A recent report by a Missouri task force said the state's public universities and community colleges should not stray from the types of degrees their institutions can grant unless they have a good reason to do so.

Missouri lawmakers asked the task force to address the issue after a dispute between the University of Missouri System and Missouri State University. The task force was made up of 16 state higher education leaders, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( ) reported.

Missouri State officials were hoping to change a statute that controls which doctoral programs the Springfield university can grant and prohibits it from offering professional degrees, including medical and law. The bills were introduced in the state House and Senate during last session that would change the statute, but both died in committee.

The report said research and professional degrees are exclusively the role of the four University of Missouri schools and that the 12 community colleges should stick to granting associate degrees and certificates.

A narrow exception to the rule is if a college or university sees an opportunity to add a program that doesn't fit its typical mission, and asks the Coordinating Board of Higher Education. The school must show proof of a "local or regional workforce need," and that there's no collaboration with other schools.

The board plans to review a maximum of eight proposals during the first two before reevaluating the new process.

"I was really impressed by the good faith that everybody brought to the table," state Department of Higher Education commissioner Zora Mulligan said. "It was a very challenging conversation. Mission is a very core component of an institution's identity. Having that talk took real diplomacy.

Officials from both the University of Missouri System and Missouri State said they're pleased with the outcome of the report.

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