At the tail-end of his legislative off-season travel, Missouri’s Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe visited College Republicans to answer questions about higher education funding and his goals leading up to the 2020 election.
Around 15 students, University President John Jasinski, State Rep. Allen Andrews and a few candidates running for local offices braved the below-zero windchill to meet Kehoe the evening of Nov. 11 in the Charles Johnson Theater at the Olive Deluce Fine Arts Building.
Kehoe briefly spoke on his history in state government and his role as lieutenant governor, but he spent most of the evening answering questions from attendees.
Senior Debrielle Patee-Merril asked Kehoe about the tension between the high number of universities in Missouri and the shrinking financial support from the state.
Kehoe said although some legislators have proposed merging some universities to reduce the number of institutions, he does not support that because each campus is unique in offerings and culture.
He said former Gov. Eric Greitens dramatically reduced funding to higher education, but Kehoe said current Gov. Mike Parson is more supportive of funding higher education in an “appropriate manner.”
“I think those institutions should be accountable,” Kehoe said. “We have a measurement system our higher education institutions all use. So I think as long as they’re producing and we’re not just pouring money into a bottomless pit, then that’s fine.”
College Republicans President junior Jasper Logan said he has reached out to as many Missouri legislators and state officials as he can, and Kehoe was the first he heard back from.
“I was hoping everyone would learn a little bit about what he’s doing in state government and the role of the lieutenant governor,” Logan said.
Kehoe said he accepted the invitation because he tries to take any chance he can get to talk to young people, especially new voters.
“No matter what side of the aisle they’re on, I think it’s a good opportunity,” Kehoe said. “I hope to learn about things that old people like me think are wrong and right. Especially the millennial generation … they have a different outlook.”
Kehoe said he is optimistic about the younger generation because they have a greater grasp of new technologies, which can be put to work, especially in agriculture. He said with the growing global population, the midwest will have to adapt to produce enough food to feed it.
Kehoe said supporting the Missouri economy is one of his biggest goals, especially with the Buy Missouri campaign, which encourages consumers to buy products produced in the state.
He said while it helps the economy to have so many higher education institutions in the state, it’s also important to keep those graduates in the state.
“I feel it’s vital we need to do what Lt. Gov. Kehoe was saying and create an environment to retain these people who are the future of the workforce,” Logan said. “We need to keep our state strong. Right now, we’ve got more jobs than we do people, so we need to keep people here.”
Merril said she met Kehoe when he was a state senator and came to the event to connect with him again.
“I know a lot of people don’t, but I have full faith in our Missouri leadership,” Merril said. “It’s really heartening to see that they truly, genuinely do care and seeing a lot of their values align with my own.”