Conference committee finalizes higher education budget
The conference committee negotiating House and Senate differences in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget finalized its recommendations for HB2003 , the higher education appropriations bill, April 22. The committee decided against approval of the additional $7.5 million appropriated to the Bright Flight program, which would have allowed an expansion of scholarships to students in the top fourth and fifth percentile of standardized test-takers. The program will continue to award students in the top three percent, and will only fund awards to students in the fourth and fifth percentile if additional funds are available. The committee also decreased the Access Missouri Scholarship Program by $13 million, which is $1.3 million less than the amount the governor withheld from the program during the current fiscal year.
The core operating budgets of all higher education institutions were not conference items, since the Senate agreed with the House’s 5.2-percent reduction to each institution. In non-core items, the University of Missouri–related appropriations differed between the House and Senate, and the conference committee agreed to take the Senate’s position on all but one line item; the State Historical Society was approved at the House recommendation, which mirrored the governor’s recommendation.
A 10 percent reduction from the governor’s recommendation was approved for Telemedicine, University Hospitals and Clinics, Missouri Rehabilitation Center and the Missouri Kidney Program. The Missouri Institute of Mental Health received a 50 percent reduction from the governor’s recommendation. MOREnet was reduced to the level at which it is currently being funded in FY10, including all withholdings that have occurred. Finally, the new line item funding the joint UMKC-MSU pharmacy program for $2 million was removed from the budget.
After all conference items have been decided, the bills must receive one more vote in each chamber before moving to the governor.
In related news, the governor’s Office of Administration announced $45 million in additional expenditure restrictions on the same day the conference committee began its deliberations. Actual revenue collections continued to fall below projections and, as of April 20, state collections were down 19 percent. The only restriction related to higher education was an additional $1.3 million reduction to the Access Missouri Scholarship Program. The restrictions bring the total reduction for FY10 to more than $900 million.
Click here  to view the restriction chart.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer (right) updates the Mizzou Alumni Association Board of Directors on his successful efforts to restore some of the funding to higher education’s operating appropriation that had been cut by the Senate earlier in the legislative process. Schaefer and Rep. Chris Kelly met with the board April 16 in Columbia.
Senate passes department consolidation resolutions
The Senate gave approval to two joint resolutions sponsored by Sen. Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) that enable the consolidation of certain state departments. Both resolutions are constitutional amendments that would require voter approval before becoming law. SJR44 , which has now moved to the House, creates the Department of Education and eliminates the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education and the Coordinating Board for Higher Education. SJR45 , which went through a number of revisions before passing, would allow the new State Board of Education to oversee elementary and secondary public schools and coordinate public higher education. The resolution outlines the board’s makeup and terms, and requires the Senate’s advice and consent on the appointment of a commissioner of education. SJR45 requires one more vote in the Senate before moving to the House.
House passes bill to equalize Access Missouri scholarships
The House perfected and passed HB1473 , a bill that equalizes Access Missouri scholarship award levels at $2,850 for students at both public and private four-year colleges and universities beginning in 2014. The bill also increases the award for students at community colleges to $1,300. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville), also lowers the required GPA for renewal of the award from 2.5 to 2.0 for the first 60 credit hours, at which point it returns to 2.5.
Currently, students attending private institutions can receive up to $4,600 in Access awards, while those at public institutions are limited to $2,150 and those at community colleges are limited to $1,000. Public institutions have been seeking an equalized award in light of the recent state budget cuts that have placed a particular strain on state colleges and universities. Gov. Jay Nixon also has suggested the possibility of cutting all state funding for private student scholarships.
Leaders of these three sectors gathered earlier this year to forge an agreement to place four-year awards at $2,850 and two-year awards at a maximum of $1,300. The House legislation, and similar language found in SB733  and HB1812 , reflects the recent agreement of the sectors.
The bill, which passed 145 to 10, must now be considered by the Senate Education Committee and adopted by the full Senate before the end of the legislative session May 14.
Higher education leaders meet with governor to discuss tax credits
Gov. Jay Nixon met with leaders of Missouri’s elementary, secondary and higher education institutions April 21 to review the state’s deteriorating budget numbers and discuss the impact of tax credits on the amount of funding available to support all levels of education.
University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee was among education leaders who spoke at the press conference. To view video from the press conference, click here .
Boone County legislative delegation reviews University Hospital budget items
Several members of the Boone County legislative delegation gathered at University Hospital April 19 to review two developments related to the Fiscal Year 2011 budget under consideration by lawmakers. Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) announced that he had worked to secure funding to support smoking- cessation research through federal stimulus funds as part of HB2011 .
Reps. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia), Mary Still (D-Columbia), Stephen Webber (D-Columbia) and Paul Quinn (D-Monroe City) also appeared to encourage support for both that program and HB2016 , which includes a re-appropriation of $31 million for the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia.
Rep. Chris Kelly discusses chances of providing funding for Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in the FY11 budget.
House panel passes Bright Flight clarification bill, defeats amendment on student curator
The House Higher Education Committee took action on two bills of interest to the University of Missouri System. SB733 , sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), would clarify allocation of Bright Flight scholarship awards, and now includes the agreement reached on equalizing the Access Missouri scholarships among students at public and private institutions. The committee passed its substitute version of the bill April 20, and it was later adopted by the Rules Committee and placed on the calendar.
The committee also heard SB987 , sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), which increases the award amounts available through the state’s Spinal Cord Injury Fund, administered by UM. The substitute, later adopted by the committee, included provisions sought by UM to allow certain records and documents shared in potential joint-venture partnerships with private entities to remain closed records. During committee consideration, an amendment was offered and defeated five to six that would have added language related to the governor’s selection of members of the University of Missouri Board of Curators. The amendment, offered by Rep. Jill Schupp (D-St. Louis), would have specified that one of the appointments “may” be a student.
SB987 has been adopted by the House Rules Committee and placed on the House calendar.
Legislators honored as part of Graduate Education Week in Missouri
The MU Graduate Professional Council celebrated Graduate Education Week in Missouri with a proclamation from Gov. Jay Nixon and a reception April 22 at the Bond Life Sciences Center honoring several lawmakers who have been supportive of higher education. Honorees included: Sen. Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), Sen. Yvonne Wilson (D-Kansas City), Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff), Rep. Sara Lampe (D-Springfield) and Rep. Rebecca McClanahan (D-Kirksville). Sarah Symonds, GPC president, and Jeff McMullan, GPC state issues coordinator, presented the awards.
Honorees and officers present for the Graduate Professional Week Awards included (from left): Jeff McMullan, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, Rep. Rebecca McClahanan, Rep. Gayle Kingery, Rep. Sara Lampe, Yvonne Chamberlain (granddaughter of Senator Yvonne Wilson) and Sarah Symonds.