Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

May 11, 2007

Lawmakers send omnibus higher education bill, construction appropriations bill to governor

After months of debate, the House of Representatives on Monday, May 7, took up and passed SB389, the omnibus higher education bill that includes a partial sale of MOHELA assets, tuition restraint, performance measures and increased financial aid programs. Lawmakers debated the bill for two hours and discussed several amendments, all of which were defeated. The bill was then adopted by a 91-64 vote. It is now on the governor’s desk, and he is expected to sign the legislation soon in ceremonies around the state.

On Tuesday, May 8, the House also took up and passed HB16, the supplemental appropriations bill that incorporates the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative capital improvement projects to be funded through the proceeds of the MOHELA sale. The University of Missouri will receive $67.9 million in capital funds. The Missouri Technology Corporation also has several University-related projects identified for possible funding. 

Also recently, Gov. Matt Blunt committed to including funding for two UM projects -- $31 million for the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia and $15 million for a Pharmacy and Nursing building in Kansas City -- in a supplemental appropriation bill next session. 

In addition to the capital improvements funding, SB389 also includes tuition restraint language that requires institutions to request a waiver from the Department of Higher Education in order to increase tuition above inflation without a penalty. If waivers are granted, governing boards are able to increase tuition above inflation without a penalty. The law stipulates that the Commissioner of Higher Education must factor in the level of state support in waiver decisions.

The bill also includes sweeping changes in the state’s need-based financial aid programs. The new Access Missouri program will be a simplified, streamlined program that is tied to a family’s federal financial contribution. It also includes a significant increase in need-based funding, from $27 million to $72 million. The University of Missouri estimates the number of its students receiving need-based aid from the state will more than triple, from the current 2,785 students to 9,884. Dollars coming to UM students will increase from $5.2 million this year to more than $17 million next year.

The legislation also includes a future increase in the Bright Flight merit-based scholarship given to those who score in the top 3 percent in the state on standardized ACT and SAT tests. It will increase the value of the scholarship from $2,000 to $3,000 per year beginning in the 2011 school year. The University of Missouri receives nearly half of the Bright Flight scholars in the state today. The bill also expands the eligibility for a lower-level Bright Flight of $1,000 for those in the fourth and fifth percentile. The University estimates that nearly 3,000 additional students at its four campuses will be eligible for those funds.

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