The newly signed federal spending budget provides earmarks for several area higher education initiatives, including $1.5 million to expand and enhance Ozarks Technical College’s existing nursing and surgical technology programs. (Photo: Ozarks Technical College)

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On Tuesday, President Biden signed into law the Fiscal Year 2022 federal budget, which includes federal funding for several higher education projects in Springfield. 

As the Daily Citizen reported on March 12, $56 million in federal funding will go to Missouri State University, the bulk of which will be directed toward renovating and adding on to Temple Hall, home of MSU’s College of Natural and Applied Sciences. 

Ozarks Technical Community College will also receive federal funding for several initiatives, including $3 million to aid in the development of an aircraft repair program. 

The federal dollars for higher education was a priority for U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, who said in a March 9 news release that funding science programs was one of several key Missouri initiatives. Temple Hall will receive $50 million through federal funding, which MSU President Clif Smart said will cover over half of the costs to transform the science facilities. The building, named in honor of longtime science department head Allen Temple, will get its first major remodeling since it was built in 1971 and will become the Ozarks Health and Life Science Center. The renovated Temple Hall would become part of MSU’s effort to establish the Center for Transformational Education for Life, Physical and Health Sciences.

“I never thought we’d be able to do the renovation of Temple Hall because it was just going to be too much money,” Smart told the Daily Citizen. “Then all of the sudden, we’re going to have $50 million to do that. And we’ll leverage that money with state money because the governor has $30 million that we’d have to match in his budget. So all of the sudden, between state and federal money, we have $80 million to do a tremendous renovation and expansion of our science buildings.”

Along with the funding for Temple Hall earmarked in the federal budget, MSU will also receive $3 million for a health and life sciences faculty endowment on the Springfield campus, $2.5 million for West Plains campus hospital simulation lab and $525,000 for STEM equipment and technology upgrades on the West Plains campus. 

Money for OTC 

The federal budget also provides funding for several Ozarks Technical Community College programs. That includes $1.5 million to expand and enhance OTC’s existing nursing and surgical technology programs, as well as $3 million in funding to develop an airframe and powerplant maintenance, or aircraft repair, training program at OTC. To get the aircraft repair program off the ground, OTC Chancellor Hal Higdon said in a statement to the Daily Citizen that additional funding sources will be sought.

“OTC is incredibly thankful for Senator Blunt’s leadership,” Higdon said. “This funding will not only help our students, but also our community. The shortage of health-care workers is well-documented, and the college will use these federal dollars to improve and expand existing programs. The aircraft maintenance program will create more job opportunities as airlines will consider Springfield for their repair and maintenance operations because of that skilled workforce. We hope to combine the funding for the aviation program from Senator Blunt with additional funding from the State of Missouri, Greene County and the City of Springfield to create a first-class program.”

Additional funding for local R&D

MSU also announced that $28 million in federal funding will be allocated toward five research projects either underway or in development at the Jordan Valley Innovation Center. The projects involve partnerships with technology companies and defense partners like the U.S. Army and Navy, said Allen Kunkel, director of the Roy D. Blunt Jordan Valley Innovation Center. The funding allows for a continuation of several projects with Springfield-based Brewer Science

“One is revolving around environmental contaminant sensors, and the other one is for advanced materials for resilience sensors,” said Kunkel.

Because of the ties to the defense industry, details about the projects are few. Along with the two projects with Brewer Science, JVIC researchers are partnering with GVD Corporation on a project to test the reliability of cloud communications systems, with WPC Technologies to develop corrosion inhibitor coating for marine applications and with SI2 Technologies to develop affordable manufacturing of resistive films. 

Blunt, who helped the university secure grants, contracts and an appropriation to construct Jordan Valley Innovation Center that bears his name, said in a March 11 news release that these higher education projects are worthwhile recipients of federal funding.

“Missouri is on the cutting edge in areas like health research and precision medicine, ag and food innovation, advanced manufacturing, technology, defense aviation, and geospatial intelligence,” Blunt said in the news release. “Smart, targeted federal investments will allow our state to continue growing our footprint in these areas that are critically important in the 21st Century economy. It’s an exciting time and I’ve been proud to advocate for Missouri-focused federal investments that will allow our state to leverage our central location, our top research institutions and our public-private partnerships to create new opportunities for people to raise families and build their careers where we live.”

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson