THE KANSAS CITY REGION DRAWS ECONOMIC STRENGTH FROM A RICH WEAVE OF EDUCATIONAL OPTIONS.
State Line? A problem? That might be true in other communities divided by state lines, but in Kansas City, there’s one unanticipated blessing that flows from being a metropolitan area straddling two states is a wealth of public educational offerings.
Start with our systems of higher education. Yes, systems, with an “s,” because we have two states in the mix. That’s how we get the benefits of the University of Kansas Medical Center, a research and teaching magnet that abuts the state line in the Midtown section of Kansas City, and, barely two miles away, adjacent to the Country Club Plaza, the University of Missouri–Kansas City. UMKC is one of a handful of universities nationally that can boast programs in the four health disciplines: medicine, dentistry, nursing and pharmacy.
More recently, Kansas State University has established a significant presence in the region with its Olathe Innovation Campus, which celebrated its opening in early 2011. That site is part of a broader venture with KU and Johnson County Community College to align their resources. The goal? Making this region a nationally recognized center for research and instruction in the life sciences—covering the range of human, plant and animal health.
Nearly two dozen private colleges and universities dot the regional landscape, including several with national credentials. Combined, these colleges and universities host more than 100,000 students within the metropolitan area, or only a short hour or two away.
Though not entirely new, a significant trend is the regional focus on higher education, with both state and private institutions continuously expanding their programs. Public financing for state schools has been an issue in recent years, given the fiscal crises that have beset both Kansas and Missouri. But policymakers in each state have gone on record saying that the higher-education belt-tightening has run its course because further cuts there would inflict long-term economic damage.
Many have committed to finding other areas of savings, or new sources of state revenue, to reduce additional impact on university budgets.
Beyond the life sciences, regional universities also have expressed growing interest in other aspects of high technology. One result of this is that both university systems, while offering outstanding programs overall, boast areas of special strength that local residents and businesses can access across that state line.
Inside Kansas City proper, the largest institution is the University of Missouri–Kansas City, with an enrollment approaching 15,000 students. In addition to its broad range of medical programming, UMKC offers degrees at the baccalaureate, first-professional, master’s, and doctoral levels, and operates a College of Arts and Sciences, a conservatory of music, and schools of business and public administration,
computing and engineering, education, law and biological sciences.
The University of Kansas, in nearby Lawrence, has more than 21,000 undergraduate students and roughly 6,000 graduate students, as well as nearly 3,000 at the medical center in Kansas City. Particularly with its coronary-care programs and emerging cancer center research capabilities, it is building on a national reputation as a top-tier research and teaching university.
Roughly half that size is the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, with approximately 11,000 students, less than an hour east of Kansas City’s suburban fringe. And less than an hour to the north of Downtown Kansas City, Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph has about 5,000 students.
Two major land-grant research institutions flank the region: the University of Missouri-Columbia, with over 28,000 students, and K-State in Manhattan (more than 23,000 students) are readily accessible from Kansas City.
Many consider the area’s private colleges and universities to be among its best assets. Among others, they include William Jewell College in Liberty, ranked annually as one of the best small colleges in the nation. Park University in Parkville, Rockhurst University in Kansas
City, the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, and Missouri Valley College in Marshall. All are respected institutions with innovative programs.