Curators come out against MOHELA plan
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Curators come out against MOHELA plan

Date: March 12, 2007
By: Tina Marie Macias
State Capitol Bureau

JEFERSON CITY -- Two former University of Missouri curators on Sunday came out against the governor's plan to sell some of the state loan authority's assets. John P. Lichtenegger and Sean McGinnis, both practicing lawyers who served on the board of curators at different times in the 1990s and early 2000s, said a lawsuit could be brought against the authority's board if the Senate passes a bill that authorizes the sale to fund campus building projects.

The two voiced their opposition to the sale in an editorial that they wrote, which was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday.

In the editorial, they wrote that if the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority has enough surplus to fund these building projects -- which include a Health Sciences Research and Education Center and a business incubator -- then they are not fulfilling the MOHELA charter of offering low interest rates to students.

The said violating this charter could be cause for a large class-action suit against the MOHELA board.

"Essentially, what the governor is proposing is to rob Peter (the students) to pay Paul (the institutions). The Pauls have paid lobbyists; the Peters have none," Ginnis and Lichtenegger stated in the editorial.

They wrote that money from the sale should be used for loan fogiveness and lower interest rates, and not for funding building projects at various state institutions.

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, who authored a  higher education bill that includes the governor's MOHELA sale, said this editorial inadvertently supports his bill. He said his bill would not violate the charter, because it, in fact, changes the law.

He also said he's not sure if the sale money should be used for both lowering interest rates on loans and loan forgiveness.

"I'm not aware where it says in the MOHELA charter that the MOHELA sale should be used for loan forgiveness," Nodler said.

Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, one of the sale's biggest opponents, said Nodler's bill would not violate any laws, but did agree that MOHELA money should be used for loan forgiveness and lower interest rates.

Shoemyer, who is a farmer, equated selling the MOHELA assets to buying expensive equipment and selling the farm.

"I buy all this stuff but, now come next year, I can't even fully utilize it, because I've sold the farm to buy it," he said.

Shoemyer, who is sponsoring another MOHELA bill that recommends using bonds to fund building projects, said that Nodler's MOHELA plan executes the the building projects over a 10-year period, and that the sale might not be able to fund all of the expenses. Some building projects, he said, could be dropped.

"If the kids aren't going to suffer and families -- which they are -- then as we're going with pay as you go, then some projects are going to fall of the list," Shoemyer said.