February 15, 2013

President Obama delivers State of the Union

President Obama gave the first State of the Union address of his second term on February 12. His speech focused on the economy and job creation. Initiatives the President announced or is proposing to expand include increasing investment in science and technology research and changing the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are factors considered when colleges receive financial aid.

President Obama also announced that the Department of Education would release a new College Scorecard to show the costs, graduation rate, loan default rate, and median borrowing information for each institution. The new Scorecard can be found here. After the State of the Union, details of the President’s initiatives were released in “The President’s Plan for a Strong Middle Class & A Strong America.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) gave the official Republican response to the President’s speech. He discussed the importance of federal financial aid but said that students need more information about the costs and benefits before taking out student loans. Sen. Rubio also called for expanding federal student aid to cover online courses and degree programs that provide academic credit for work experience. The President’s State of the Union transcript can be found here, and Sen. Rubio’s response can be found here.

Budget bills introduced

House Budget Chair Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) introduced the fiscal year 2014 budget bills on February 14.  For the most part, the recommendations made in the higher education appropriations bill, or House Bill 3,  follow the Governor’s recommendations released in late January.  While the Governor recommended $34 million in performance funding, HB3 currently includes a performance funding component of $20 million, which would be distributed among the 2- and 4-year institutions based on improvement on specified performance measures.

Under the introduced bill, the University of Missouri System would receive $394 million and all but one of the University of Missouri-related items would receive funding equivalent with what was appropriated for the current fiscal year.  The State Historical Society would receive a $400,000 increase to assist with their assumption of responsibility for the Western Historical Manuscript collection in 2011.  The Budget committee will begin review of the bills in the next few weeks.

On February 19, the Senate Appropriations committee, chaired by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), will hear from higher education representatives, including University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe.

Mizzou Alumni Association presents Geyer Awards to Sen. David Pearce, MU students

The Mizzou Legislative Network, which is organized under the Mizzou Alumni Association, presented Geyer Awards for Public Service to Higher Education during a reception in Jefferson City on February 11. An audience of University leaders, alumni, supporters, and legislators were present for the conferment of the Geyer Awards, which are named after former State Rep. Henry S. Geyer, the author of the bill that established the University in 1839. The awards were presented to Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) for his longstanding support for MU and higher education in the legislature and MU students Steven Dickherber, Zach Toombs, and Ben Levin for coordinating the student grassroots and advocacy effort last year to fight proposed budget cuts to higher education. 

Sen. Pearce chairs the Senate Education Committee and the Joint Committee on Education, and he serves on many other key committees. He is a longtime supporter of higher education and has sponsored many bills to help the University of Missouri. Sen. Pearce, who is an MU graduate himself, took the opportunity to note his father’s love of the University. He displayed a black and white image of his father sporting a University of Missouri sweatshirt with other relatives standing in a field in north Missouri.  

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Geyer Award recipient Sen. David Pearce (left) displays an image of his father in a University of Missouri sweatshirt. He is joined by MU Chancellor Brady Deaton (right).

The student recipients of the Geyer Award each discussed their roles in creating the Missouri Student Association’s “More for Less” campaign last year. The purpose of the campaign was to urge lawmakers not to cut the budget. In the end, lawmakers approved a budget with no cuts to higher education.  Students delivered thousands of letters and emails to the Governor and legislators, coordinated rallies at the Capitol, and worked with the Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM) to develop messages for legislators.

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MU Chancellor Brady Deaton (center right) with Geyer Award recipients Sen. David Pearce (far left) and MU students Ben Levin (center left), Zach Toombs (center), and Steven Dickherber (far right).

Extension districting proposal perfected in the Senate

Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), which would allow MU Extension to establish single- or multi-county Extension districts to better deliver and fund local programming, was perfected on the Senate floor on February 13. The bill was amended to exclude St. Louis County from having the option to form a district.  The bill will still need a final vote in the Senate next week before moving to the House.

In the House, the counterpart bill is expected to be brought up on the floor in the coming week. This bill, House Bill 202, is sponsored by Rep. Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho).

Congressman Lacy Clay visits UMSL

On February 11, Congressman Lacy Clay was on the UMSL campus to present a $2 million check to various local organizations in the St. Louis area. These include community development organizations, local financial institutions, and their partners, and this funding will be split between them to create or improve homes for 275 people across the city.clay_george_130211

Congressman Lacy Clay (left) and UMSL Chancellor Tom George (right).
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