As unfunded-mandate legislation awaits a final House vote, an
examination of how the issue impacts higher education seems in
order. These laws or regulations, usually federal, require certain
actions by others, usually states, but provide no funds to carry
them out. Eliminating such unfunded mandates has become a battle
cry in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Medicaid is often used as an example of an unfunded mandate.
Federal law specifies who and how much is covered, but states are
required to share the expense, with the percentage share specified
by federal law (between 30 and 50 percent).
Universities are inundated with unfunded mandates, creating an
almost uncontrollable bureaucracy in higher education. Unfunded
mandates come not only from the federal government, but from state
governments and quasi-government agencies such as the National
Collegiate Athletic Association and a multitude of accrediting
agencies. At the University of Missouri at Columbia, our medical
center alone has 138 different groups that specify various rules
and regulations affecting it.
No one really knows what all this costs. But for those of us
who run colleges and universities, unfunded mandates are placing
increasing financial pressure on our institutions. I set out to
estimate the impact of unfunded mandates on our university over the
past decade. The scope and complexity of all those costs, such as
those attributed to our accrediting agencies, makes this a
formidable task. However, the costs we could clearly pinpoint add
up to $80 million for the last 10 years. So, very conservatively
estimated, MU has averaged $8 million a year in unfunded mandates
over a decade.
What are these unfunded mandates and how did we calculate the
costs? First, consider that they do not include services delivered
to the poor and elderly in our university hospital. Medicare and
Medicaid fund medical services at less than actual cost. Full
funding for these services would drive our total for unfunded
mandates $170 million higher - $78 million for Medicare and $92
million for Medicaid.
There are literally hundreds of regulations and acts with which
MU must comply, most of them overly prescriptive. While I have
nothing but positive feelings about the original principle or
intentions embodied in a number of these regulations, the
expensive, bureaucratic, paperwork-laden nightmare that has
resulted in no way serves our constituents or our nation well.
Examples of the mandates' impacts include:
MU is required by law to establish and maintain an office of
environmental health and safety. This office - itself an unfunded
mandate - oversees our compliance with the Environmental Protection
Agency (at a cost of $2.6 million for the past decade), Nuclear
Regulatory Commission ($2.76 million), Department of Transportation
($235,000), Health and Human Services ($264,000), U. …