Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

March 16, 2007

Omnibus higher education bill stalled in the Senate after filibuster

Omnibus higher education bill stalled in the Senate after filibuster
An omnibus higher education bill to combine plans for tuition restraint, scholarships, performance measures and accountability, powers of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, and capital improvements has been the central focus for lawmakers and higher education leaders so far this session. SB389 [link to PDF summary], introduced by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin), chair of the Senate Education Committee, has stalled in negotiations after Democrats staged a filibuster on the Senate Floor this week. The bill may be reconsidered when lawmakers return after spring break.

 MOHELA and capital improvements

The bill includes language to allow the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) to transfer $350 million in assets to the General Assembly to be appropriated for capital improvements that are part of the governor’s Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative. Due to opposition in the General Assembly over facilities that could be used for stem cell research, the original list of projects has been redrafted. The new list removes medical research facilities and business incubators in Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City and adds several new projects that emphasize health care education, agriculture research and cancer treatment. There is no stem cell restrictive language in the latest version of the bill. The projects also have been taken out of the omnibus bill language and instead will be inserted into a supplemental appropriations bill, HB16. See a complete list of the original projects compared to the new list. The MOHELA board has already liquidated more than $200 million in out-of-state loans and has estimated it will have nearly $260 million available for projects by the end of the legislative session. 

Tuition restraint

In the latest version of the bill, institutions would have to seek a waiver from the Commissioner of Higher Education in order to increase tuition above inflation, or risk a penalty of up to 5 percent of operating funds. The National Consumer Price Index will be used as the inflation index in the new version of the legislation.

Need-based financial aid

After several months of work, the state financial aid task force developed a recommendation to discontinue the state’s two need-based aid programs, the Gallagher grant program and the Missouri College Guarantee program, and to streamline them into a new need-based financial aid program that is tied to family income and federal financial aid guidelines. The task force, which included representatives from public two- and four- year institutions and private institutions, presented the recommendations to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education. The changes have been incorporated in the omnibus bill as the Access Missouri scholarship. 

Currently, the state provides $27 million in need-based aid, divided so that 63.5 percent of the funding goes to students at Missouri private institutions and 36.5 percent goes to students at Missouri public institutions. Under the budget that is being considered by lawmakers, the funding would increase to $72 million next year. The Access Missouri scholarship would provide 50 percent of those funds for students at public institutions and 50 percent to students at private schools.

Coordinating Board and performance measures

The omnibus bill also provides additional powers to the Coordinating Board over jurisdictional boundaries among institutions; clarifies the role of the Joint Committee on Education to include higher education policy and review; requires development and reporting of performance measures for higher education institutions; and seeks to enhance information regarding faculty and what courses they teach. It also changes requirements for institutions from other states who offer educational programming in Missouri.

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