Committee recommends overhaul of higher education
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Committee recommends overhaul of higher education

Date: January 29, 2007
By: Tina Marie Macias
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The report and a bill focusing on the monetary and implicit costs of college education could punish universities for raising their tuition too high.

Under the language of the bill, which was introduced Monday by state Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, universities that raises tuition with a percentage increase higher than inflation could lose 5 percent of that year's state appropriations.

"This really gives answers to concerns about affordability and accountability of higher education," Nodler said.

He said under the bill, five accountability measures would be created -- three statewide and two for each individual university or system. The measures have not been defined, however. Nodler said that will be refined in committee hearings. The first meeting will be Wednesday afternoon.

"Long term, we hope a formula will be created for accountability and performance measures," Nodler said.

The bill also includes $25 million for need-based financial aid and the support of the governor's plan for selling $335 million worth of assets from Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

The committees report includes some vague recommendations for accountability standards, and no action plan for things such as strengthening high school education and funding more scholarships. However, Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Lincoln County, said that's what the committee intended.

"The committee tried not to present ideas with a narrow scope," Rupp said. "It's made to let the assembly file some bills and base some ideas on a committee that met a couple times over the interim. Let the details work out on the floor of the Senate and the House floor."

Among the recommendations includes the possibility for loan forgiveness for math and science teachers and engineering students. Rupp said the committee tried to encourage students in the math and science area.

"That's an area where Korea and India and those major world players are emerging and excelling. That's where the engineering students and those types of degrees are coming out of," Rupp said. "We're finding it difficult for us to compete in those types of fields."

Rupp said the committee also wants to include high school education standards so that there are not as many students taking remedial courses in college. He said improving the relationship between community colleges and 4-year institutes will also improve this.

"Community colleges play a very vital role," he said. "For society and more jobs that will be out there."