Presentation for Council to Campus re: Public Value of MU Extension Programs
Dr. Cynthia Crawford
June 20, 2009

University of Missouri Extension improves people’s lives.

We welcome the opportunity to talk about how people who attend University of Missouri Extension programs are better as a result. Let me give you an example:

The Saline County Extension Council decided that “Tackling the Tough Skills” program is a right answer for our part of the state. “Tackling the Tough Skills” is about the skills that help a person get and keep a job – attitude, responsibility and respect, communication, problem solving/decision making, and job search skills.

The past six weeks, I’ve worked closely with Missouri Valley Community Action to reach 57 people with 18 hours of training on “Tackling the Tough Skills.” The audience has been people on public assistance, who are being sanctioned and are losing 25 percent of their TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) benefits because they are not meeting their commitment to seek, get and keep a job.

As they come through the doors of the Extension Center, they are reluctant learners. The work that Rosilee Trotta (MU Extension urban youth and family specialist in St. Louis County) has put into developing the “Tackling the Tough Skills” curriculum really comes alive as participants engage in active learning. Many go from being reluctant learners to wishing that the classes lasted longer.

The 57 people who have attended “Tackling the Tough Skills” are better off. For example, they are better at treating people who are different from them with respect. They are better at following through on commitments they make. They are better at listening carefully to what others say. They are better at thinking about what might happen because of decisions they make. They are better at working out problems. The bottom line is this: They improve their sense of control over their own personal goals and future.

Attending “Tackling the Tough Skills” improved 57 people’s lives. Too often we stop the report at this point.

There’s more to talk about than the 57 people who participated!

The public value of University of Missouri Extension work is how people who are not at the educational event benefit. Is it possible that people who weren’t even in the room when the workshops were held are better off?

If the 57 parents have a better attitude, are more responsible, communicate more effectively and make more deliberate decisions, are their children better off? Absolutely. Children aspire to be like their parents.

Currently, the learners are being sanctioned by the Family Support Division, and they are losing 25 percent of their TANF benefits. Coming into compliance can restore the benefits the family is losing. This is money the families need to meet basic necessities. It can literally put food back on the table for their children. Their children are better off with a more adequate diet? Are we better off, too, if the children are healthier? Absolutely, because those children are less likely to be absent from school or to require publicly funded medical care.

Participants can go from being unable to pay their bills to being more likely to pay their bills. Is that good for business men and women in the community? Is it good for you when others pay their bills? I spent a lot of years in school, and one of the lessons from economics is, “When someone pays less, we all pay more.”

If some of our 57 learners can move from public assistance into employment, they may be able to move from public assistance to becoming a taxpayer. Do we all benefit when that happens?

If these learners and their families move from Medicaid (taxpayer-funded healthcare) to getting good health insurance through their employer, are we all better off? Yes, because it reduces the expenditures of the State of Missouri.

Helping people get and keep jobs adds fuel to Missouri’s economy. We are all better when Missouri’s economy is stronger.

Public values are about how people who aren’t even in the room when MU Extension is doing programming benefit.

Public value makes a powerful case for public funding.

Here are sample Public Value statements for “Tackling the Tough Skills”:

  • When you support MU Extension’s “Tackling the Tough Skills” program, participants learn and practice skills for successful employment – positive attitude, communication, anger management, problem solving, decision making, responsibility and respect – which leads toincreased success in getting and keeping a job. Local communities and the state’s economy benefit as participants move from public assistance to taxpayer roles.
  • When you support MU Extension’s “Tackling the Tough Skills” program, participants are more successful in getting and keeping a job. The taxpayers of Missouri benefit too as participants move from publicly funded Medicaid to health care via private and employer-provided health insurance.