Martha Zlokovich (Chair-elect), Rick Althaus (Chair Professional Affairs) and I met with several of our legislators during the Higher Education Day at the State's capital. All three of us visited with Rep. Gayle Kingery, Senator Kevin Engler, Senator Jason Crowell, Rep. Scott Lipke, and Rep. Nathan Cooper. Martha and I took a tour of the capital dome courtesy of Senator Kevin Engler's office. We were unable to meet with Rep. Rod Jetton.
The dominate topic was about Senate Bill #389 which is a omnibus bill for higher education. Topics in the 39 page bill addressed multiple issues concerning higher education including: tuition caps, the establishment of the Department of Higher Education, new powers given to the Commissioner of higher Education, articulation of and competencies of entry level courses, need based scholarships based on Expected Family Contributions (EFB), the control of private (25) and proprietary (160) institutions, CBHE wants more information about classes on-line (who is teaching), and MOHELA (with stem cell restrictions).
Tuition caps: President Dobbins has made the case that basing increases on CPI hurts campuses like Southeast that kept their tuition low so using some kind of distance from the mean of all tuitions seems to be the leading choice. Legislature has agreed to a 4.3% increase in funding for the next three years. This, with the tuition increases that we already have, is supposed to bring us back to historically high level funding.
Department of Higher Education: Robert Stein has been appointed as commissioner. The commissioner has been given punitive powers (1-5%) over institutions established primarily because of the Southeast/Three Rivers lawsuit.
Articulation and Competencies: The Bill wants articulation agreements for introductory courses like we have for General Education courses. They also want competencies established for entry level courses. The legislature is tired of hearing from K-12 schools that their students are not competent for higher education.
Scholarships: Based on expected family contributions not cost of tuition. Limited to cost of attending. These steps are seen as helping our students.
Force out of state institutions (called independents) to abide by same rules as in state public and private institutions by seeking permission for courses and programs.
CBHE: Wants to allow students to determine who will be teaching the courses (graduate students?). Wants more on line access.
MOHELA: Anti stem cell lobby too strong to ignore so some kind of limitation is expected. Would only effect University Missouri system in the near term but sets a bad precedent.