Senators debate funding model for higher education
A bill to codify the process of funding public four-year higher education institutions was debated by the Senate on February 3. Senate Bill 492 , sponsored by Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), requires the use of a funding allocation model developed by the Council on Public Higher Education (COPHE) for future budgeting requests and instructs that new funds will be allocated based on institutional performance.
The bill was introduced in response to legislation passed two years ago that called for the development of a funding model, but it differs from the current COPHE plan in the way new funding is allocated. The Council’s plan bases 66 percent of new funding on performance and 33 percent on equity adjustments designed to compensate some institutions for higher enrollment growth in recent years. Senate Bill 492 allocates 90 percent of new funding on performance and 10 percent based on the other factors.
Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) discussed the concept with Senator Pearce when the bill was debated. Schaefer noted the need for a much more substantial reorganization of higher education in the state and questioned the performance of several open enrollment institutions. He asked Pearce to delay the bill until some of these issues could be addressed when university presidents testify before the Senate Appropriations committee on February 11. The bill was place on the informal calendar to await future debate.
Budget bills introduced
The Fiscal Year 2015 budget bills were introduced on February 6 by the Chair of the House Budget committee, Representative Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood). Following a debate on the consensus revenue estimate for FY 2015, Chairman Stream introduced bills that were almost identical to the Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed budget bills for FY 2014. Differences were limited to a new line item in bills, related by subject, of the amount of new revenue that the House believes will be available in the next fiscal year. For example, HB 2002 , related to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and HB 2003 , related to the Department of Higher Education (DHE), are both related by subject. Representative Stream elected to include a new line item of $317 million in HB 2002 with the understanding that the total would be distributed between DESE and DHE, based on the House Budget committee’s recommendation.
Budget subcommittees will continue to meet next week in order to prepare their recommendations to the full Budget committee. The House Appropriations – Education committee will meet on February 10 to review the DHE budget request and should begin considering recommendations soon thereafter. On the Senate side, the Senate Appropriations committee will hear testimony from the two- and four-year public higher education Presidents on February 11.
In related news, the Missouri Office of Budget and Planning released its revenue report for January 2014. State Budget Director Linda Luebbering announced earlier this week that FY 2014 general revenue collections to date increased 0.7 percent compared to FY 2013 and net general revenue collections for January 2014 decreased by 9.5 percent compared to those for January 2013.
Bonding bills introduced in House and Senate
On January 30, Representative Caleb Jones (R-California) introduced House Joint Resolution 73 , which proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing the General Assembly to issue bonds to fund higher education improvements, state Capitol repairs, park maintenance, and mental health facility improvements. If authorized by voters, the bonding plan would allow up to $600 million for capital projects at public higher education institutions, with no less than twenty percent going to community colleges. The resolution would allow $480 million in bonding for four-year institutions, if passed as currently written.
The University of Missouri System has approved Tier 1 projects at its four campuses and has submitted these requests  to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education. If approved, the bonding plan could fund such projects.
Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) has also introduced SB 723 , which would target deferred maintenance and repair at public higher education institutions. The UM System currently has $1.3 billion in deferred maintenance repair and capital needs. The bill sponsored by Senator Parson would not require a vote of the people, rather, it would raise the current cap on the amount of revenue bonds that may be issued and would limit the use of funds to the renovation of existing buildings. Senator Parson is working with the Council on Public Higher Education to identify the most urgent projects on the state’s higher education campuses.
House panel considers new tuition repayment plan; approves Bright Flight and formula bills
A no-tuition, state repayment plan that has been piloted in Oregon was the subject of a bill heard February 4 before the House Higher Education Committee. House Bill 1232 , sponsored by Representative Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield), would establish the “Show-Me Future Program” to replace traditional higher education tuition with a new system enabling graduates to repay higher education costs with a percentage of their income after graduation. Representative Haahr’s bill would call on the Department of Higher Education to develop a pilot program involving one community college and one four-year institution to determine the feasibility of the concept.
A challenge noted by several committee members during the hearing was the up-front cost of reimbursing the institutions for the tuition they would have received from students in the program. The committee did not take any action on the bill.
Several other bills were approved during the executive session of the committee, including passage of HB 1308 , sponsored by Representative Mike Thomson (R-Maryville). The bill provides a $5,000 annual boost for Bright Flight students who remain in the state after graduation. House Bill 1390 , also sponsored by Thomson, establishes a resource allocation model for public community colleges and 4-year institutions.
Missouri College Advising Corps program presented to Coordinator Board, legislators
A successful peer advising program that has increased college-going rates at many high schools across the state is part of the University of Missouri System’s budget request for FY 2015. The Missouri College Advising Corps, headquartered at MU, has served 26,000 students in 26 partner schools across the state and has plans to expand to several additional areas with a $3 million budget request. Currently, the program is funded entirely by grants and donations.
The Corps is a group of recent college graduates who are stationed as full-time advisors in schools with low college-going rates across the state. The advisors work with students and parents to learn more about how to apply for college and financial aid. The program has placed many students in universities, community colleges and technical programs across the state and has an overall track record of increasing the college-going rate by more than 10 percent.
Dr. Beth Tankersley-Bankhead, executive director of the program, presented a progress report before the Coordinating Board for Higher Education on February 6 and was recognized by Dr. David Russell, Commissioner of Higher Education, for her work in organizing the program. She also presented an overview of the program to several legislative groups, including the Legislative Black Caucus, the House Appropriations-Education Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the House Higher Education Committee.
For more information on the program, please go to the Missouri College Advising Corps  web site.
UM alumni and supporters urged to attend Legislative Day Feb. 18
Alumni, friends and supporters of the University of Missouri System campuses are encouraged to participate in the annual Legislative Day on February 18 at the State Capitol in Jefferson City. The annual event is sponsored by the University of Missouri Alliance of Alumni Associations and Extension. Events include a rally in the first floor rotunda at 9:30, visits with legislators throughout the morning, displays in the third floor rotunda featuring the outreach and research of the University campuses and Extension, and a legislative panel on higher education topics at 1:00 p.m. For more information, please go here .
Farm bill passes Senate, President signs into law
After several years of work and negotiation on the federal farm bill, the U.S. Senate passed HR 2642  on February 2 by a vote of 68-32. President Obama signed the bill today at Michigan State University. For higher education, the farm bill contains language to authorize agriculture policy research centers, such as MU’s Food and Agriculture Policy Research Center (FAPRI), authorizes spending levels for programs like Extension, competitive agriculture research, research farms, and educational nutrition programs. Nearly all of these programs saw funding authorizing levels increased above sequestration and restored to FY 2012 levels or higher. The bill also sets the funding levels for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. The newly passed farm bill will expire on September 30, 2018, and changes in this bill from the previous farm bill will save the federal government approximately $23 billion over ten years.
Veteran in-state tuition bill passes U.S. House
A bill requiring public colleges and universities to charge veterans in-state tuition rates beginning in 2016 was passed by the U.S. House on February 3. The “GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2014” passed by a vote of 390-0. The bill would affect about 3,800 veterans after July 1, 2016 and would save the federal government $139 million during the next decade. Missouri is minimally affected by this legislation due to the state legislature’s passage of SB 117  in 2013 and the “Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act ,” which has already accomplished goals similar to those contained in the federal legislation.