JEFFERSON CITY — The man in charge of the University of Missouri System did Monday what college presidents have to do every year: he asked the legislature for more money.
This year's wish list, which the system's President Mun Choi shared with a House committee in charge of education budgets, is mostly about keeping good things going.
Choi wants the roughly $416 million in general funding the system received last year, plus an $8.3 million increase tied to inflation to help chip away at maintenance projects left undone.
Every state college in Missouri is asking for a similar inflation-based bump this year after going four years without one.
Choi also wants a little more than $9 million for five proposed projects dedicated to getting students ready to go into industries with a lot of jobs. One at the Columbia campus would develop an apprenticeship program to teach people how to repair and maintain medical imaging equipment.
But Choi was most excited about the request for another $10 million to help build MU's NextGen Precision Health Institute, a "precision medicine" center in Columbia he said will be a place where research into cancer and heart disease can be turned into cures and where those cures can be distributed to the world.
Missouri could really use the help, seeing as it ranks poorly in categories like heart disease deaths and mental distress, he said.
The UM system has the minds to rise to the challenge, "but what we lack is a comprehensive facility to discover the root causes of these diseases, develop the cures and also deliver that care," he added.
The legislature already has sent $10 million the university's way, and Choi described results as literally and figuratively earth-shattering.
The system broke ground in June, then inked a 10-year partnership worth more than $100 million with the German company Siemens Healthineers, which Choi said will allow MU to provide "the most advanced imaging system in the Midwest."
The project has also attracted grants to pay for work on improving skin cancer treatments, building new biomedical devices and training doctors to serve rural Missouri, Choi said.
Like other university presidents who came before the committee Thursday and Monday, Choi spent a few minutes reeling off stats designed to appeal to cost-conscious legislators.
He noted, for example, that the system has cut $200 million from its budget and eliminated more than 750 administrative positions in the past three years.
He also boasted that MU increased its tuition less than any other flagship state university in the last decade.
Missouri State University President Clif Smart made similar boasts before the committee Thursday, pointing out that more students from Missouri study at his school than any other state campus.
The committee did not take any action Thursday or Monday, and budget writing is currently in a lull as legislators wait for Gov. Mike Parson to release his budget and give his State of the State address Wednesday.
The House and Senate will then spend months crafting their own budgets and negotiating differences before sending a final version to Parson for review.