Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

May 22, 2007

SB389 passage highlights busy session for higher education

Higher education in Missouri will see significant changes as a result of the passage of SB389, the omnibus higher education bill for 2007. Lawmakers debated concepts in the bill for more than a year before passing it in early May and sending it to the governor, who is expected to sign it in ceremonies across the state in the coming days.

Here is a basic summary of the provisions in the bill as they relate to the University of Missouri:

MOHELA and capital improvement projects:

In 2006, Gov. Matt Blunt announced the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative that involved the partial sale of assets from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) to fund construction projects at colleges and universities across the state. A modified version of the initiative was incorporated in SB389 and its accompanying appropriations bill, HB16. MOHELA already has liquidated more than $200 million in loans from students outside of Missouri, and the legislation provides the means to allow MOHELA to sell additional assets over the next three years to fully fund the $350 million initiative. The bill allows for the bonding of some construction, which means projects authorized by the legislature can begin more quickly.

The University of Missouri will receive a total of $67.9 million in capital funds. These include $15 million for Toomey Hall at UMR; $28.5 million for renovation of Benton/Stadler Halls at UMSL; $21 million for improvements at several research centers and farms across the state for the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at MU; and $3.4 million for dental equipment at UMKC. The Missouri Technology Corporation also has several University-related projects identified for possible funding.

The governor committed to include 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. Funding for those projects as part of the Lewis and Clark initiative was not reallocated so it should be available for lawmakers to appropriate next year.

Financial Aid:

SB389 also included a major overhaul of the state´s need-based aid programs. Developed primarily by the state financial aid task force of the Department of Higher Education, the legislation creates the Access Missouri Scholarship, which combines and replaces the existing Missouri College Guarantee and the Gallagher need-based aid programs. The new program is simplified, streamlined and tied to the federal financial aid forms. This change makes it easier to predict the amount of aid students will receive, and the aid is portable from institution to institution. The program also provides a better balance of funds among private and public institutions. Today, students at private schools receive 63 percent of the state´s need-based funds. Under the new program, the division of funds between public and private institutions is expected to be about even. Lawmakers provided a significant boost to funding for the program in this year´s budget, which means need-based aid will increase from $27 million in FY07 to $72 million in FY08. The University of Missouri´s students who receive state need-based aid will increase from 2,785 students this year to more than 9,884 students next year. The University´s dollar share also is estimated to increase from $5.2 million this year to more than $17.2 million next year.

The legislation also includes an increase and expansion of the state´s Bright Flight scholarship. The University of Missouri enrolls nearly half of the state´s Bright Flight students, with MU being the largest recipient of any institution in the state. Beginning in 2011, students who score in the top 3 percent of standardized tests in Missouri will see awards increase from $2,000 per year to $3,000 per year. In addition, the program will be expanded so that those in the fourth and fifth percentile will receive a $1,000 award. Currently those students are not eligible to receive any grant under the program. UM enrolls 3,767 Bright Flight students now, while the expanded program is expected to increase that number to more than 6,500 students.

Senators added a third financial aid program during debate on the bill. The Missouri Teaching Fellows Program is a loan forgiveness plan for the state´s high school seniors who go on to receive a teaching certificate and a bachelor´s or graduate degree and then enter the teaching field in an unaccredited or under-accredited school in Missouri. The bill provides loan forgiveness over a four-year period and is aimed at improving teacher quality in failing schools.

Tuition restraint:

The omnibus bill includes a mechanism to provide tuition restraint for public institutions in Missouri. Under the plan, institutions who increase tuition above the national CPI must request a waiver from the Commissioner of Higher Education that includes an overview of the reasons the increase is needed. The commissioner must then consider such factors as the level of state support provided and increases in benefits costs and utilities in determining whether the increase is warranted. If the waiver is granted, the institution is free to initiate the increase without penalty. If the waiver is not granted, then the institution may be fined an amount up to 5 percent of the current year appropriation. The institution can appeal that decision to the full Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

Other items:

The omnibus bill includes increased powers for the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, including the ability to levy fines on institutions that disregard board policy as well as requiring binding arbitration for disagreements between institutions. The bill included a provision that allows the University of Missouri to protect the private financial records of donors and potential donors from open records requests. It also sets up a process for developing performance measures for institutions and expands the duties of the Joint Committee on Education.

Back to index