Governor pledges to expand access to higher education in State of the State address

Gov. Matt Blunt; UMSL student Traci Clark with her daughter Bree, who inspired her to go back to school; UMSL Chancellor Tom George; and recently appointed University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee.

In his State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 15, Gov. Matt Blunt called for a further investment in higher education. The governor recommended an appropriation of $457,283,469 for the University of Missouri for Fiscal Year 2009, or a 4.2 percent increase. Blunt also requested $31 million for Ellis Fischel Cancer Center at MU and $15 million for the Pharmacy and Nursing Building at UMKC as part of the supplemental budget. University of Missouri Interim President Gordon H. Lamb praised the recommendations and said that the “investments proposed by the governor will help the University fulfill its missions of teaching, research, service and economic development.”

The governor also recommended $100 million – an increase of more than $27 million –for the need-based Access Missouri scholarship program. Blunt introduced UMSL nursing student and scholarship recipient Traci Clark as a “great example of how the Access Missouri scholarship is allowing Missouri students to reach their full potential and be of service to our fellow Missourians in the years to come.” [Read more on the governor’s recommendations for the University…]

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Missouri S&T hosts legislators
Missouri S&T hosts legislators
Missouri S&T students speak to legislators about their design team projects. From left to right: Rep. Kathlyn Fares (R-Webster Groves), Rep. John Quinn (R-Chillicothe), Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville) and Rep. Sue Schoemehl (D-St. Louis).

The Missouri University of Science and Technology hosted more than 30 members of the House of Representatives on campus on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Members of the House Education Appropriations, Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations, Transportation and Higher Education committees traveled to Rolla to tour the campus and meet with students. Missouri S&T students showcased research utilizing the use of hydrogen as a fuel, new bridge construction techniques and many other projects. Missouri S&T Chancellor Jack Carney and recently appointed University of Missouri President Gary Forsee, who also is a UMR alum, addressed the group of legislators and spoke of the hands-on experience Missouri S&T students gain from participating in design teams and projects.

Lawmakers visit MU horticulture and agroforestry research center, eMINTS program
Rep. Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) visits with students at New Franklin Elementary School.
Rep. Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) visits with students at New Franklin Elementary School.

Members of the House Education Appropriations Committee traveled to the University of Missouri-Columbia Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center (HARC) on Wednesday, Jan. 16. Located in New Franklin, Mo., the 660-acre farm includes several experimental fruit and nut orchards and hosts the annual Missouri Chestnut Roast. The legislators toured the farm and saw more than 50 ongoing research projects demonstrating how plants can be used for alternative crops as well as assist with environmental challenges.

The lawmakers also toured New Franklin Elementary School, where they were able to see how the eMINTS program works in an actual school setting. eMINTS, or enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies, is housed at the University of Missouri. The collaborative program was developed at the University in cooperation with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Higher Education. The lawmakers witnessed students at various grade levels solving problems and producing data and presentations using technology. 

MU High School makes presentation to Appropriations-Education Committee
MU students Chad Raw and Matt Wheeler testify about their experiences with MU High School.
MU students Chad Raw and Matt Wheeler testify about their experiences with MU High School.

The online MU High School, part of the University’s Center for Distance and Independent Studies administered through MU Extension, presented an overview of its offerings to the House Education Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, January 15. Kristi Smalley, principal of the school, gave an overview that covered the history of the online education effort and the courses offered. MU High School is one of the oldest and largest of such schools in the nation, providing online education for students from across the world. To date, 471 students have graduated from MU High. Smalley was joined by two graduates of MU High School who are both now students at the University of Missouri. Chad Raw, a biochemistry major, and Matt Wheeler, an engineering major, testified before the committee about their experiences with online education.

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Lawmakers hear report on cost savings and policy research from MHEC

Members of the Senate Education, House Higher Education, and House Education Appropriations committees heard an update on Tuesday, Jan. 15, from Larry Isaak, president of the Midwest Higher Education Compact, about cost savings efforts for Missouri institutions, student exchange programs and new policy research. 

MHEC’s mission is to advance higher education through interstate cooperation and resource sharing. Missouri has saved more than $20 million through hardware and software savings programs, and more than $12 million through the Midwest Student Exchange Program that provides reduced tuition. Isaak reviewed a number of policy statistics related to per capita income and higher education support, financial aid and education levels of the population.

Sen. Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) serves as the chair of MHEC this year. Missouri commissioners include Shields, Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff), UMSL Chancellor Tom George, Columbia College President Gerald Brouder, and Mary Beth Luna Wolf, a policy analyst from the governor’s office. Higher Education Commissioner Robert Stein serves as an alternate.

On a lighter note: Senator introduces bill making the Kansas Jayhawk the official game bird of Missouri

In preparation for the Saturday, Jan. 19, basketball game at Mizzou Arena between the Missouri Tigers and the Kansas Jayhawks, Sen. Dan Clemens (R-Marshfield) introduced SB971 on Thursday, Jan.17 to make the Kansas Jayhawk the official game bird of the state of Missouri. Clemens, an MU graduate, penned the legislation to help Tiger fans gear up for the much anticipated rivalry game. 

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