March 30, 2009

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Budget passes house

The Missouri House of Representatives passed House Bill 3 Thursday as they considered the budget for next year. There were no changes made to the proposed operating budget for the University of Missouri. The House approved a $451 million appropriation, an amount equal to the 2009 allocation. Gov. Jay Nixon previously suggested funding for all public higher education institutions be kept stable and tuition not be increased, and the House approved. Approximately $49 million in federal stimulus funds were used to offset falling state general revenue.

Rep. Allen Icet (R-Wildwood), chair of the House Budget Committee, is expected to announce a capital improvement proposal next week, which would also use one-time federal stimulus funds.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to begin deliberations on HB3 this week. The operating and capital budgets must be completed by May 8, 2009.

House, Senate committees prepare to consider Access Missouri proposals next week

The Senate Education Committee will conduct a hearing on SB390 at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 1, in the Senate Lounge. The committee will hear from supporters of the legislation that equalizes Access Award scholarships for students attending both public and private institutions. The bill, sponsored by Senators Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) would provide the same scholarship amount for all four-year students regardless of whether they attend a public or private institution. Currently the Access program awards up to $4,600 in need-based funding to private school students and up to $2,150 to students at public institutions.

The House Higher Education Committee will conduct an information session on this topic from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 31 in Hearing Room 3. Identical legislation in the House to make the same changes in Access, HB792, was introduced by the committee chairman, Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff), but the bill has yet to be formally assigned to the committee.
The University of Missouri supports this legislation, which would balance the flow of funding to public and private institutions. Several university leaders, alumni and students plan to testify and participate in the events.

Senate Education Committee adopts legislation to expand A+ program

A proposal to expand the successful A+ tuition reimbursement program for students at two-year institutions to public four-year institutions was adopted by the Senate Education Committee Wednesday. A Senate Committee Substitute for SB558, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) establishes the Missouri Promise Program in the Department of Higher Education to provide a scholarship for students who complete a two-year degree at a community college and then transfer to a public four-year institution to obtain a bachelor's degree. Students would be required to maintain a 3.0 GPA to continue to receive the scholarship. A similar bill in the House, HB903, has not been assigned to committee yet.

House committee hears higher education immigration bill

Rep. Jerry Nolte (R – Gladstone) presented a House Committee Substitute for HB390 to the International Trade and Immigration Committee Thursday, March 26. The bill addresses several concerns the higher education community has related to the immigration legislation passed last session. The previous legislation did not make clear whether the definition of "public benefit" was limited to postsecondary education only or if it included postsecondary education financial assistance as well. It also left questions regarding international student admissions and the verification process for checking international students' status.

HCS for HB390 addresses all of these issues by removing postsecondary education, state grants and scholarships from the definition of public benefit and adding a new section that clearly defines "postsecondary education public benefits" and "covered students," which describes acceptable forms of identification.

University of Missouri leadership played a key role in developing the new language. Barbara Rupp, director of admissions at the University of Missouri-Columbia testified in support of the legislation and described how these modifications would address the concerns of the higher education community. Representatives from the University of Central Missouri, the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Missourians Against Illegal Immigration also testified in support. Representatives from Catholic Charities and the ACLU testified in opposition to the legislation.

Senate Rules Committee hears resolution supporting international education

The University of Missouri System was among institutions testifying in support of a Senate Concurrent Resolution Tuesday before the Senate Rules Committee. SCR13, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), notes that international education is "an essential component of the future of the state of Missouri" and encourages students and faculty to promote international education as a part of curricular and extra-curricular life. Pearce introduced a similar resolution last year in the House that was supported by international students from several University of Missouri campuses.

Hearing scheduled on higher education bonding bill

The House has scheduled a hearing on HJR32, co-sponsored by Reps. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) and Steve Tilley (R-Perryville). The resolution proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing the General Assembly to issue bonds to fund higher education building improvements, construction, landscaping and land purchases. Upon voter approval, the amendment would authorize the issuance of up to $700 million in bonds, which would be issued over time and would mature within 25 years from the date of issuance. The Fifth State Building Bond and Interest Fund has been created for the payment of the bonds and any interest earned. A public hearing is scheduled before the House Special Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Transportation Funding at noon March 31 in House Hearing Room 3.

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