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May 28, 2015

Meetings continue for the development of a new coordinated plan for state's higher education system

One of the nation’s leading experts on higher education’s financial challenges and solutions will discuss funding for Missouri colleges and universities during a public hearing June 3 in Springfield.

The hearing, hosted by Missouri’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education, will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Ozarks Technical Community College. The hearing is the eighth in a series of nine hearings being held throughout the state to gather information for a new coordinated plan for higher education in Missouri.

Dennis Jones, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, will talk about alternative funding models for higher education being tried across the country and lead a discussion about making college more affordable in Missouri.

“Adequate funding for our colleges and universities is a major factor in meeting the state’s higher education needs,” said David Russell, Missouri commissioner of higher education. “We must consider innovative ways to provide the resources our colleges and universities need to support our efforts to increase the number of Missourians with a degree or certificate.”

By 2018, nearly 60 percent of the jobs in Missouri will require a two- or four-year degree or professional certificate. Currently, about 49 percent of Missouri residents have earned a degree or certificate.

Following Jones’ presentation, a panel of administrators from four of the state’s colleges and universities will continue the funding discussion. Panel members include Dr. Brian Burnett, chief financial officer at the University of Missouri System; Marla Moody, vice chancellor for finance at Ozarks Technical Community College; Dr. Ron Slepitza, president of Avila University; and Clif Smart, president of Missouri State University.

While Missouri’s public colleges and universities have received modest funding increases in recent years, the state currently ranks 44th nationwide in higher education funding on a per-student basis. Missouri spends less on higher education per student than every surrounding state.

A steering committee of 36 leaders in education, business and industry, and government is working with the coordinating board to identify issues and develop recommendations for improving the state’s higher education system.

The public is invited to testify at the hearing. Public comments also can be posted on the Department of Higher Education’s website at: dhe.mo.gov/blueprintcomments.php.

The public hearings will wrap up in Cape Girardeau on June 4 at Southeast Missouri State University. The final hearing will focus on strategies to increase college completion, higher education challenges in the rural setting and preparing the next generation of teachers.

The new plan, “Preparing Missourians to Succeed:  A Blueprint for Higher Education,” will be presented to the coordinating board for approval in December. For additional information about the development of the plan, including a list of steering committee members and major areas of interest, visit dhe.mo.gov/blueprint.php