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Senate passes stripped-down version of higher education scholarship-reorganization bill

The Missouri Senate this week made changes to HB1865, the higher education reform plan sponsored by Rep. Carl Bearden (R-St. Charles), and adopted a new scholarship proposal on Thursday, April 26, in its place. Although the new Access Missouri scholarships are included in the new plan, the Senate removed language that would cap future funding and tuition levels as well as other provisions that would have established a joint committee on higher education, fee-for-service contracts and new funding models based on performance. 
The University of Missouri and other public higher education institutions had sent a letter to lawmakers in both the House and Senate expressing opposition to HB1865 as originally presented, with specific concerns raised about caps on tuition and annual operating revenues. The Senate version of the bill removes all of those sections.

Bearden, when appearing before the Senate Education Committee during a hearing on the bill this week, told senators that passage of the MOHELA bill hinged on HB1865 passing the Senate. Lawmakers went into executive session after Bearden presented his bill and introduced a substitute plan that removed everything but scholarships. The Senate version establishes the Access Missouri scholarship at $1,000 for freshmen with a 2.5 GPA who attended a Missouri high school for at least three years. Students who receive the A+ scholarship would not be eligible to receive the award. The scholarship could be used by students attending public two- and four-year institutions as well as private schools. A Senate amendment added on the floor would sunset the scholarship after two years while lawmakers study combining the scholarship programs.

A joint House and Senate conference committee is expected to be named next week to work out differences between the two bills. The University of Missouri supports the Senate’s version of HB1865.

Senate prepares to take up latest version of MOHELA legislation

The Senate Appropriations Committee this week passed a revised version of HB1022, the MOHELA bill, and sent the measure on to the full Senate, where it is expected to be debated early next week. The latest version of the bill includes all of the higher education capital improvement projects for the University of Missouri, as well as funds for Federally Qualified Health Centers and $50 million in debt reduction for the state. It does not specify dollars for scholarships, but a related Access Missouri scholarship plan has been built into the operating budget with a recurring appropriation of $10 million. That funding is intended to support the freshman-only, $1,000 Access Missouri scholarship that is being debated as part of HB1865.

The Senate is expected to pass its version of the bill early next week, sending the MOHELA plan to a conference committee for final deliberations as the May 5 deadline for appropriations bills approaches.

Earlier in the week, the House passed its version of HB1022 by a vote of 109-47.

Conference committee finishes budget deliberations

Senate and House conferees concluded their deliberations Thursday, April 27 on HB3, which contains the operating budget for the University of Missouri. The major component included in the bill is a 2 percent increase for general operations. The negotiators also approved a $2 million increase for academic operations at UMSL, several minor program enhancements at UMKC, additional inflation adjustments for the Missouri Rehabilitation Center at Mount Vernon and for MOREnet, a provider of Internet services for state higher education institutions managed cooperatively by the University. It is expected that the University will receive a "letter of legislative intent" outlining the exact legislative expectations for the additional funds. The total appropriation for UM for the next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2006 is $413.1 million.  Current year funding totals $402.4 million. Both chambers will give final approval to the bill in votes next week and send the bill to the governor.

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icon question markCampus highlights

MU Wrestling Coach Brian Smith, Sen. Chuck Graham and Ben Askren.
MU Wrestling Coach Brian Smith, Sen. Chuck Graham and Ben Askren.
MU wrestling champion recognized by General Assembly

University of Missouri-Columbia wrestler Ben Askren, the school’s first NCAA wrestling champion who took first place in Division I events, was recognized by the Missouri House of Representatives and the Missouri State Senate earlier this month. Askren was introduced on the floors of both chambers and honored with a Senate resolution presented by Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia). Askren is a senior from Wisconsin majoring in geography.

Elected officials attend black studies conference at UMKC
UMKC Chancellor Guy Bailey and Rep. Sharon Sanders Books at the black studies conference.
UMKC Chancellor Guy Bailey and Rep. Sharon Sanders Books at the black studies conference.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City hosted an annual Black Studies Conference at the African American History and Culture House last week. Several community leaders participated in discussions regarding the role of the University and the black community in the Kansas City region. Rep. Sharon Sanders Brooks (D-Kansas City) was a featured panelist at the event, along with several other community leaders, including Kansas City Mayor Pro-Tem Alvin Brooks and UMKC Chancellor Guy Bailey. The theme of discussion was “Building the Future: UMKC and Black Kansas City.”

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icon question markLegislator Profile: Sen. Frank Barnitz

Sen. Frank Barnitz

Sen. Frank Barnitz (D-Lake Spring) is the manager of Barnitz Farms, Inc., a ranch in Lake Spring, Mo., where he and his family live on the same land farmed by his great-great-grandfather. In addition to farming, and his responsibilities in the Senate, Barnitz serves on the University of Missouri Wurdack Farm Advisory Committee and previously served as a 4-H leader. Barnitz views the mission of the University of Missouri as providing a “quality education for developing professionals and advancing technology for all who desire.” [Read more…]

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