Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

December 16, 2005

House Interim Committee completes work on student-based funding models

The Interim Committee charged with reviewing how state funds are distributed to higher education institutions completed its work Dec. 12 with a report that essentially summarizes testimony received from three hearings around the state but makes no recommendations regarding legislation for the coming session. The committee grew from HB742, sponsored last year by Rep. Carl Bearden (R-St. Charles), speaker pro-tem of the House. The legislation called for an increase in state funding to FY02 levels, then would channel any additional state funding through a new student-based formula similar to a voucher system that students from both public and private schools could receive. The legislation was considered too complex to take up midway through last year’s session, so Speaker Rod Jetton formed the interim committee with Bearden as the chair to collect additional input and consider recommendations for next year.

The committee held hearings in Columbia, Poplar Bluff and Bolivar. Topics included how the current higher education funding is distributed, how financial aid programs are administered, challenges facing each sector of higher education, and a national perspective provided by Dr. Paul Lingenfelter from the State Higher Education Executive Officers organization. At the request of the chair, the committee also heard a report from UM President Elson S. Floyd regarding his tuition tour around the state this summer.

“The committee was aware from the outset that the need for state support for students is profound,” Bearden wrote in the report’s cover letter. “However, testimony did not reveal any easy answers to the question. The committee looked at context-setting information, both for higher education in the U.S. and for higher education in Missouri, and it heard similar testimony from the sectors within higher education. … As of the writing of this report, the consensus of the committee was that the best interests of students would be served with a factual overview, drawn from many sources, rather than to suggest legislation.”

Although it is not mentioned in the final report materials, Bearden did tell the committee that he plans to introduce a revised version of HB742 in the coming session that will focus on a method of allocating state funds through students, possibly through a financial aid or scholarship program as opposed to state appropriations. Additional details are not yet available.

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