It’s Illegal for Most Public Universities in Missouri to Offer PhDs

Only one public university (system) in Missouri can offer PhDs. Only one can offer first-professional degrees in law (J.D.), medicine (M.D.), and more.

The University of Missouri and its supporters in the legislature have for decades maintained a monopoly on doctoral degrees. For a long time, only UM system schools could offer them.

For instance, in 2005, Missouri State University was banned from offering any doctoral, first-professional, or engineering programs unless it was in cooperation with Mizzou, which would be the degree-awarding institution. This was the price of then-Southwest Missouri State’s name change to Missouri State. The name for limits on growth, to protect Mizzou’s position as the state’s largest university and its “prestige.” Other laws barred or scared off other universities from offering the highest degrees.

In 2018, Missouri passed a law with some good changes, some bad. Universities were finally given a pathway to offer more doctoral degrees — like, say, a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D) — without going through Mizzou. But it was enshrined into law that “the University of Missouri shall be the only state college or university that may offer doctor of philosophy degrees or first-professional degrees, including dentistry, law, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, and veterinary medicine” (H.B. 1465, page 4). Further, engineering degrees and a few others must still go through Mizzou.

Impacted universities include Missouri State, Truman, Central Missouri, Southeast Missouri, Harris-Stowe, Lincoln, Missouri Southern, Missouri Western, and Northwest Missouri. Looking at their catalogues you find no doctoral programs, with a few exceptions, such as two at Central Missouri offered through Mizzou and Indiana State, and eight at Missouri State, with one through UMKC.

Proponents frame all this as eliminating costly duplicate programs and promoting cooperation. But by that reasoning, why should multiple universities offer the same bachelor’s degrees? The actual reasoning is obvious. A monopoly on doctoral degrees means more students and income for the UM system. At the expense of every other public university. At the expense of students, who may want to study elsewhere. And to the detriment of the state, which loses money to other states when students don’t get into Mizzou or a sister school, are priced out, or do not find the program they’re looking for — they have no choice but to go to graduate school in another state.

It’s high time Missouri legislators corrected this nonsense. Students, alumni, and everyday proponents of fairness and sanity should contact their legislators and those who serve the districts of affected universities.

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