May 2, 2008

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University of Missouri hosts Undergraduate Research Day

Undergraduate Research DayThe University of Missouri hosted Undergraduate Research Day at the capitol April 30 to showcase the work of undergraduate students from the university’s four campuses. Students displayed their projects in poster format and were available to discuss their research and share information about the unique educational experiences and opportunities at the university. Many of the students also will present their research at campus, regional and national symposia and conferences.

With more than 45,000 undergraduate students, the University of Missouri plays a major role in undergraduate education throughout the state. The mission of Missouri's only public research and doctoral-level institution is to discover, disseminate, apply and preserve knowledge. Our goal is to stimulate learning by our students and lifelong learning by Missouri's citizens.

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Operating budget moves out of conference committee

The conference committee appointed to resolve the differences between the House and Senate appropriation amounts for the University of Missouri has recommended that the university receive a 4.2 percent increase for fiscal year 2009, plus an additional $2.44 million for UMSL equity funding to help resolve a funding issue that has been pending in the General Assembly for several years, resulting in a total operating increase of 4.7 percent for the UM System. The university will receive $430.9 million for the current year.

The conference committee was co-chaired by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) and Rep. Allen Icet (R-Wildwood). The committee's recommendations will be presented to the full House and Senate next week. All appropriation issues must be resolved by May 9.

Senate appropriations committee endorses university capital projects

The Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed on Thursday all three University of Missouri capital projects that had been recommended by the governor, including $5 million for construction of the Thompson Autism Center at MU, $750,000 planning money for a dental school expansion at UMKC and $600,000 for planning of a new facility for the State Historical Society in Columbia. While the House earlier had deleted the funds for UMKC, the other two projects were recommended for funding by both the House and the Senate.

The House had proposed funding for four new projects that had had not been recommended by the governor, including $300,000 for a new building for the Nursing/Health Professions schools at MU and a new Optometry/Nursing Building at UMSL. The Senate failed to endorse both projects, but both will be considered by a House and Senate conference committee next week.

The Senate did approve $2 million for improvements to agriculture experiment stations across the state that support MU agricultural research, which had been previously endorsed by the House. The Senate did not approve $500,000 for equipment at a new business economic development incubator in Columbia. All of the projects considered by the House and Senate will be eligible for final approval by a conference committee that will be appointed next week to consider the bill.

House committee approves voting student curator legislation

The House Higher Education Committee has approved legislation that would provide for a voting student on the board of curators in the event Missouri loses a congressional district after the next census. By a 4-3 vote on May 1, the committee approved SB873, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia) that would make the change to the University of Missouri's governing board. The current nonvoting student representative to the board would be eliminated under the proposal if the voting student curator is appointed.

Missouri is expected to lose one of its nine congressional districts after the 2010 census. The Constitution says the university's governing board shall consist of nine members, and state statutes indicate that no more than one member shall come from the same congressional district. Under SB873, the student could come from any congressional district and would serve a two-year term. They would not vote on personnel decisions other than the hiring or firing of the UM president.

The bill has to be approved by the full House of Representatives and would go back to the Senate for final consideration if any amendments are made.

Combat veterans to get tuition waiver

The House and Senate approved identical language this week that establishes a partial tuition waiver for combat veterans who served since 2001. SB830, sponsored by Sen. Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis) was approved by the House May 1 by a 144-0 vote. Earlier in the week, the Senate adopted the same language as an amendment to another bill.

Veterans eligible under the plan would pay no more than $50 per credit hour for undergraduate courses. The University of Missouri worked closely with Coleman and the House handler, Rep. David Day (R-Dixon), to incorporate language that better defined the parameters of the waiver to limit it to undergraduate courses and so it would be applied after all other aid is considered. The bill also includes language to allow institutions to report how much tuition they have waived under the plan as part of the following year´s appropriation request to provide an opportunity to be reimbursed by the state.

Immigration bills prepare for floor consideration

The House and Senate are preparing for debates on immigration bills that impact higher education. HB1463, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nolte (R-Gladstone), is on the calendar for consideration in the Senate and includes language that requires higher education institutions to certify to the Department of Higher Education that they have not knowingly enrolled undocumented aliens in the previous year. The same language also appears in a House committee substitute version of SB858 sponsored by Sen. Scott Rupp ( R-Wentzville), which was approved by the House Special Committee on Immigration May 1. Both chambers are expected to consider the immigration legislation before the end of the legislative session May 16.

Higher education committee conducts final hearing of session

The House Higher Education Committee heard one bill and voted on two others during its final regular meeting of the session April 29. The Committee heard HB2533, sponsored by Rep. Sue Schoemehl (D-St. Louis) that would allow for a tax deduction for tuition at public four-year institutions for qualifying residents. Schoemehl told the committee the bill was aimed at those who come back to complete degrees later in life and need additional financial help. The committee approved the bill later in executive session.

The committee also adopted a substitute for HB1604 sponsored by Rep. Rachel Bringer (D-Palmyra) that would provide tuition grants to some foster children. Another bill, SB846, sponsored by Sen. Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville), that would allow Rankin Technical Institute to participate in the state's A+ Scholarship Program was defeated by the committee.

Elementary and Secondary Education Committee approves bill related to teaching of evolution

A bill that would provide safeguards to public school science teachers wanting to provide information to students regarding the strengths and weaknesses of evolution was heard and approved by the House Elementary and Secondary Education committee this week. HB2554, sponsored by Rep. Wayne Cooper (R-Camdenton), requires the State Board of Education and other governing authorities and administrators to "create a school environment conducive to the exploration of scientific questions" and to assist teachers in determining the best ways to present controversial scientific material. The bill was approved during the committee's executive session April 30.

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Federal Icon Federal update

Congress passes student loan act

This week, Congress passed HR5715, the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008. This bill increases the amount of money available to college students for loans and authorizes the Department of Education to take a larger role in ensuring its availability. It raises the annual cap on federal college loans to $31,000, gives parent borrowers additional time to defer paying off federal PLUS loans and allows the education department to purchase loans from federally backed lenders. The measure is on its way to the president for his signature.

Congress extends Higher Education Act

Congress passed S.2929 this week, giving a one-month extension to the Higher Education Act (HEA). Earlier this Congress, both the Senate and House of Representatives passed their respective reauthorizations of the HEA. Members have been working out the differences in the two measures informally and create a conference report to fully reauthorize the law that has not been fully reauthorized in more than a decade. The HEA reauthorization is just one of several large laws, such as the Farm Bill, that Congress is fully reauthorizing this year.

MU student part of Posters on the Hill

Jeff Pobst with Rep. Kenny Hulshof MU sophomore physics major Jeff Pobst met with members of Congress this week as part of the Posters on the Hill event with the Council on Undergraduate Research. Sixty students from around the country are competitively selected to present their research to Congress. Pobst has been working on ways to store natural gas at lower pressures so it can be used in vehicles as an alternative to gasoline. From Osage Beach, Mo., Pobst was able to meet with Sens. Kit Bond (R) and Claire McCaskill (D), as well as Reps. Kenny Hulshof (R) and Ike Skelton (D).

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