Study finds 87 percent of Missouri state legislators attended college

Approximately 70 percent of Missouri lawmakers graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
A study released by the Chronicle for Higher Education found that 87 percent of Missouri lawmakers attended college. A total of 69.7 percent of them graduated with at least a bachelor's degree. Maneater File Photo

According to a study published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, roughly 87 percent of Missouri’s lawmakers attended college, while 69.4 percent received a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The study also shows that MU is a popular destination for lawmakers with 41 total graduates in the state legislature. Missouri State University is the alma mater of 14 lawmakers, putting the school in second place.

About 13 percent of Missouri lawmakers did not attend college at all, compared to 9 percent nationwide. The study found that approximately 15 percent of lawmakers attended college, but did not graduate, and only 3 percent received an associate’s degree. Fourteen percent of Missouri lawmakers have a law degree, which is slightly less than the national average of 17.2 percent.

Missouri ranks near many surrounding states such as Kansas with 68.6 percent and Iowa with 71.3 percent. In Illinois, 81.9 percent of lawmakers attended college compared to 87.3 percent in Nebraska and 60.4 percent in Arkansas. The state with the most college graduates in its legislature is California with 89.9 percent. The state with the lowest number is New Hampshire with 53.4 percent.

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said he believes his education at Saint Louis University has made a positive impact on his career. He graduated in 2006 as an economics major and is currently a student at the MU School of Law.

Webber, who is in his second term, said being an economics major has helped him in office. More importantly, the wide range of educational backgrounds among legislators results in the best representation for the state as a whole.

“The quality of the person matters much more than the educational background of the person,” Webber said.

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, is a 1976 graduate of the MU School of Journalism. An Arkansas native, Still said her communications experience has been a great help. Looking back, she said more business and math would have been useful to her while working in the legislature.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, attended the MU School of Law while serving in the state legislature.

“I attended law school while a member of the legislature and those experiences were definitely complimentary,” he said.

Kelly also received an undergraduate degree from Marist College in New York in 1968 and his Jurist Doctor in 1988 from MU.

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