COLUMBIA, MO. — It’s the largest investment in higher education in decades, sending an additional $70 million to public colleges and universities. 

Missouri colleges and universities are getting a major boost, a 7% funding increase. This leaves the University of Missouri System, which includes Mizzou, UMKC, UMSL and Missouri S&T set to receive nearly half a billion dollars in total core funding. That’s why the state’s largest university said it’s a big part of why its retention rate is at an all-time high. 

“We’ve seen a 3% growth this year over last year,” University of Missouri Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jim Spain said. “The investment that the state is making is actually helping us further improve the quality of graduates. The future workforce.”

More than 5,000 new freshmen are joining the Tiger community in Columbia, but Mizzou has an even bigger reason to celebrate. 

“The freshman retention rate was a historic number for us,” Spain said. “We’re at 91.4%. Without raising admission requirements and having a 91% retention rate, that places us in the company of less than 200 public and private universities in the nation.”

This means an all-time high of freshmen came back for their sophomore year. Spain said that’s in big part to the state’s investment. 

“Some folks don’t understand that that increases the opportunities that our undergraduate students have to do research,” Spain said. 

Back in January, Gov. Mike Parson made a request of lawmakers during his annual State of the State Address. 

“We’re increasing core funding to our community colleges and four-year institutions by 7%, the largest increase in more than 25 years,” Parson said in January. 

That $70 million investment at colleges and universities of Mizzou, Spain led to a better outcome for the state’s economy and workforce. 

“We know that our students are staying here in Missouri to go to work, and I think that’s a reflection of how the investment that the state is making in higher ed will pay dividends,” Spain said. “When we graduate teachers, they are going back to teach school, when we graduate nurses who are going into the healthcare industry, when we graduate young people to go into agriculture, we’re helping the state of Missouri maintain and retain a vibrant economy that benefits all of Missouri.”

The UM System is set to receive $488 million in core funding. That’s an increase of more than $25 million compared to last year, making it the largest core funding in the history of the University of Missouri System. 

The preliminary total enrollment at the University of Missouri this semester is 30,667 students, with undergraduates making up 23,000 of that. 

This fall is also the first semester the University of Missouri System is using a differential tuition model, meaning students pay a rate based on their major. 

Back in May, the UM System Board of Curators unanimously approved a differential tuition plan. This means that students will pay less to get a degree in education compared to a major in engineering or nursing. The price would be based on what it costs the university to teach that major and the job market for that field once the student graduates. 

This plan also consolidates supplemental course fees. Right now, the fees are different for students based on the courses they take, making it hard to pinpoint the overall bill. Under this plan approved Tuesday, there would be a flat rate of fees for full-time students. This means the universities will incentivize the student to take 15 or 18 credit hours because it would cost the same as taking 12 hours. 

Spain said it’s too early to tell the impact this new structure is having on families and students.