Columbia legislators plan to introduce bills for scholarships, MU building repair

Monday, January 6, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:33 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 7, 2014

COLUMBIA — Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, will attempt for a sixth time to gain legislative approval for a bond issue that would provide more than $1 billion to repair state buildings, including some at MU.

If successful, Kelly will have played a part in passing the largest bond issue in state history.

It's one of four education issues related to MU in the upcoming legislative session, including additional money for Bright Flight scholarships, higher education funding and a proposal for a student vote on the University of Missouri System Board of Curators.

The passage of Kelly's bond issue would mean funding for repairs of MU buildings, including several engineering buildings located on Francis Quadrangle.

University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe said at a February 2013 hearing that repairs of UM System buildings would create 3,810 jobs and attract donor support from around the state.

"Passage of a bond issue would greatly aid us in addressing the critical repair and infrastructure needs on our four campuses, where we currently face a backlog of $1.3 million in unmet renovation and repair projects," UM System spokesman John Fougere said.

The last bond issue approved by voters was the 1994 Fourth State Building Fund, which issued $250 million to renovate and make improvements on college campuses and state prisons.

The legislative session opens Wednesday and ends May 16. .

Bright Flight funding

The legislature faces another education issue in Bright Flight funding and expansion, as proposed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Nixon outlined a proposal in November to award Bright Flight scholars an additional $5,000 if they agree to remain in Missouri following graduation. If students leave the state earlier than guaranteed, they would have to pay back whatever remains.

Nixon said he plans on adding in $15 million for this scholarship adjustment with his recommendations for the 2014 budget.

Bright Flight is a scholarship program for Missouri residents based on ACT or SAT scores. Students receiving this scholarship receive scores in the top 3 percent and are eligible to receive up to $3,000 when the program is fully funded. However, students only receive $2,500 at this time.

Higher education funding

One thing Missourians can feel assured about is the future of higher education funding, Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said.

He said he feels confident about the UM System achieving its core numbers for budget.

"Given the budget environment right now and the university's representation on both sides in the budget world, I think we are going to be good," Rowden said.

The biggest obstacle to new dollars being allocated to higher education could be health care costs, Rowden said.

Missouri will probably spend another $150 million in the growing costs of Medicaid, regardless of what is done in to expand Medicaid, just because of the way the budget works, Rowden said.

"It just becomes priorities, and if we say that we want to value education and K-12 education, we need to put our money where our mouth is," Rowden said.

Board of Curators student vote

Also in the next session, the Associated Students of the University of Missouri will continue to lobby for a student vote on the Board of Curators.

Amy Johnson from the University of Missouri-Kansas City serves as the student representative on the board but has no official vote in decisions. Her term ended Jan. 1.

"My goal is to increase the amount of information flowing from the Board of Curators back to the students," Johnson said in an online statement.

Ben Levin, president of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, said it is always an uphill battle with the issue.

"We always recommend students get in contact with their home representatives, but we are also working on additional tools we can give them (students) to make their voices heard," Levin said of ways students can support these issues.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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Ellis Smith January 6, 2014 | 8:50 a.m.

Repairing buildings on the Columbia campus that are devoted to engineering sounds like a winner. Our understanding is that, while significantly less than MS&T's large enrollment, the number of students studying engineering at MU is not small.

Obviously, MU engineering students have figured out where tomorrow's good and lasting jobs will be - and also where they won't be (in the latter case no occupations will be mentioned).

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