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Tuition and state assistance caps to higher education remain as session nears end

April 27, 2006
By: Meghan Maskery
State Capital Bureau
Links: 1865

JEFFERSON CITY - A proposal to cap state funding for colleges and universities at 2002 levels remains alive as the legislature enters the last two weeks of the session.

The Senate passed Thursday a stripped-down version of a bill the House approved that would establish a scholarship program and keep the amount of tuition and state assistance to higher education institutions at 2002 levels. The bill seeks to cap funding until scholarships are fully funded.

However, the Senate only passed the proposal to establish and fund a new scholarship program.

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, thanked Charlie Shields, the Republican Floor Leader from St. Joseph, for removing the caps.

"We're just busy supporting your good work in stripping out all the very, very bad things that were in the original bill," Graham said.

However, Carl Bearden, Speaker Pro Tem of the House and the original bill's sponsor, said the bill the Senate passed is unacceptable and the two sides will need to work together on a compromise.

"My main focus in this whole thing has been focusing on the students. The bill that they passed does not do that," said Bearden, R-St. Charles.

He added,"Right now we have probably 20,000 students at least not getting those scholarships because we're not funding them."

Higher education funding is currently at a level lower than 2002 levels. Once the institutions meet the level they were at in 2002, future appropriations would be capped at 2.5 percent increases under the provisions in the bill.

The scholarship program established by the bill seeks to give $1000 to each freshman attending a private or public higher education institution in Missouri who went to high school in the state for three years and achieved a 2.5 grade point average. The program would end in 2009 and is expected to cost the state $20 million for the two years.

In a move that Graham called a "not so subtle quid pro quo," Bearden has said that the Senate must agree on a bill closer to his original proposal in order to gain House support in appropriating profits expected from the sale of student loans.

Bearden said, "They are joined at the heart. We have a student component and a capital component, basically for the institutions. One can't survive without the other."

House Speaker Rod Jetton said he agreed that the appropriations and scholarship bills are intimately linked. He talked about the differing priorities among the House, Senate and Governor for how the state should spend the $450 million expected from the sale of student loans by the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

"It's not so much that there's two separate bills, it's just that the concepts of what we wanted to do - whether its scholarships, health care, or capital improvements - we couldn't all do in one bill," said Jetton, R-Marble Hill.

The Senate and the House will have to compromise on the House scholarship bill before May 5, which is the constitutional deadline for the legislature to have appropriation legislation passed.

Four senators voted against the Senate version of the scholarship bill.

"I have a very fundamental concern about our ability to continue to finance programs like this that we put in place that cost 10 million this and 10 million next year," said Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit.

By: Meghan Maskery

State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A proposal to cap state funding for colleges and universities at 2002 levels remains alive as the legislature enters the last two weeks of the session.

The Senate passed Thursday a stripped-down version of a bill the House approved that would establish a scholarship program and keep the amount of tuition and state assistance to higher education institutions at 2002 levels. The bill seeks to cap funding until scholarships are fully funded.

However, the Senate only passed the proposal to establish and fund a new scholarship program.

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, thanked Charlie Shields, the Republican Floor Leader from St. Joseph, for removing the caps.

"We're just busy supporting your good work in stripping out all the very, very bad things that were in the original bill," Graham said.

However, Carl Bearden, Speaker Pro Tem of the House and the original bill's sponsor, said the bill the Senate passed is unacceptable and the two sides will need to work together on a compromise.

"My main focus in this whole thing has been focusing on the students. The bill that they passed does not do that," said Bearden, R-St. Charles.

He added,"Right now we have probably 20,000 students at least not getting those scholarships because we're not funding them."

Higher education funding is currently at a level lower than 2002 levels. Once the institutions meet the level they were at in 2002, future appropriations would be capped at 2.5 percent increases under the provisions in the bill.

The scholarship program established by the bill seeks to give $1000 to each freshman attending a private or public higher education institution in Missouri who went to high school in the state for three years and achieved a 2.5 grade point average. The program would end in 2009 and is expected to cost the state $20 million for the two years.

In a move that Graham called a "not so subtle quid pro quo," Bearden has said that the Senate must agree on a bill closer to his original proposal in order to gain House support in appropriating profits expected from the sale of student loans.

Bearden said, "They are joined at the heart. We have a student component and a capital component, basically for the institutions. One can't survive without the other."

House Speaker Rod Jetton said he agreed that the appropriations and scholarship bills are intimately linked. He talked about the differing priorities among the House, Senate and Governor for how the state should spend the $450 million expected from the sale of student loans by the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

"It's not so much that there's two separate bills, it's just that the concepts of what we wanted to do - whether its scholarships, health care, or capital improvements - we couldn't all do in one bill," said Jetton, R-Marble Hill.

The Senate and the House will have to compromise on the House scholarship bill before May 5, which is the constitutional deadline for the legislature to have appropriation legislation passed.

Four senators voted against the Senate version of the scholarship bill.

"I have a very fundamental concern about our ability to continue to finance programs like this that we put in place that cost 10 million this and 10 million next year," said Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit.