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UM curators talk college readiness, elect chairwoman

Friday, December 11, 2009 | 4:29 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Curators for the University of Missouri System heard about higher education incomes and outcomes Friday, with reports from committees that tracked the college readiness of Missouri students and how effectively UM campuses are preparing graduates to enter the workforce.

The curators, meeting in St. Louis, also elected Judith Haggard of Kennett  as chairwoman of the board for 2010 and Warren Erdman of Kansas City as vice chairman.

Haggard, who earned her 1987 master's degree through a distance program with the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said she will focus on e-Learning initiatives for her reports to curators during 2010. 

Earlier, members of the P-20 task force, which is charged with looking at the education pipeline from pre-school through post-secondary education, and the Outside-In task force, which was created  to increase partnerships between UM campuses and Missouri employers, shared their findings with the curators.

Both task forces were created earlier this year.

"The achievement gap is alive and well," said Dan Lowry, a co-chairman of the P-20 task force, referring to the task force's findings that low income and underrepresented minorities still lag behind their white or wealthier peers in academic achievement.

The task force report Friday focused on findings from preschool through high school.

Lowry, co-executive director of the MU Partnership for Educational Renewal, presented statistics about college readiness that he found "startling":

  • The college-going rate of U.S. high school students has declined steadily since 1996.
  • Out of every 100 ninth-graders in Missouri, 44 will attend college within one year of high school graduation, but only 21 of these students will obtain a bachelor's degree within six years.

The committee found 257 programs that exist across the four UM campuses to help improve the college preparedness of Missouri students.

With these findings, UM System President Gary Forsee said the committee can begin to analyze which college-prep programs are "hitting home-runs" and which are less effective.

Mark Tranel, an Outside-In task force committee member, cited Missouri Economic Research and Information report on education and training needs for Missouri workers in 2016, which found that "about one-quarter of the job openings in the state of Missouri will require a higher education degree."

The committee found that a number of good programs exist on each campus to connect with the workplace but that a lack of coordination on individual campuses and across the system is limiting the UM System's ability "to be the resources that we can be to the state of Missouri," said Tranel, who is director of the Public Policy Research Center at UMSL.

"We need to maximize, coordinate and brand the very excellent efforts we have," he said.

Forsee said a lack of coordination has prevented the UM System from being perceived by employers "as the go-to place."

Earlier, Forsee rehashed the particulars of the agreement reached between Missouri's public universities and Gov. Jay Nixon to support a freeze on in-state undergraduate tuition at all Missouri public four-year colleges and universities in exchange for preserving 95 percent of the the state's appropriation for higher education.

The plan will need to be approved by the Missouri General Assembly this spring, but Forsee said indications he's received from legislators have made him optimistic that the plan will pass.

He said that he has been meeting with administrators at the four UM campuses and that by the end of January, they will have determined how and where to implement cuts in preparation for a possible reduced appropriations.

The curators later voted to approve several measures:

  • Changes to the asset allocation for the UM Endowment Fund, which passed 7-2, with Wayne Goode and David Wasinger opposed
  • Hiring of small cap investment managers for the UM Retirement Plan, which was unanimous
  • Hiring of international small cap equity, emerging market debt and high yield/bank loans investment managers for the UM Endowment Fund, which was unanimous
  • Changes to the Collected Rules and Regulations that would allow Forsee to distribute up to 2 percent of the value of the UM Endowment Fund to support endowment and development staff, which passed 8-1, with Don Downing voting no
  • Updates to the campus master plans for Missouri S & T (formerly the University of Missouri-Rolla) and UMSL, which passed unanimously

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