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June 03, 2015

Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education David Russell announces retirement

Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education David Russell announced his plans to retire during a meeting of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education Wednesday, June 3 in Springfield.

His retirement will become effective Jan. 1, 2016.

Russell became commissioner of higher education in July 2010, following a 19-year career with the University of Missouri System, where he served as a senior associate vice president and chief of staff.

As commissioner, Russell provided leadership for Missouri's higher education system, which serves  more than 450,000 students at 13 public four-year universities, 13 public two-year colleges, one two-year technical college, 25 independent colleges  and universities and more than 150 proprietary career schools.

 "David Russell has been an effective advocate for higher education in Missouri and nationwide," said Betty Sims, chair of the coordinating board. "He has worked tirelessly to expand opportunities for students and promote the importance of higher education to our state."

Sims said the coordinating board will immediately begin a search for Russell's successor.

Russell's policies and initiatives in the areas of student retention, time-to-degree, degree or certificate completion and greater collaboration among Missouri's colleges and universities raised the national profile of Missouri higher education. He supported efforts to make a college education more attainable and affordable for students across the state and launched programs to encourage high school students to start earlier to complete college admissions forms and apply for financial aid.

Russell challenged higher education institutions to be more aggressive in reducing the need for remedial education, improving student retention, developing alternative pathways to mathematics instruction and supporting college completion in less time and with less student debt. He asked the state's colleges and universities to work closely with Missouri's public school districts to help students successfully transition from high school to college.

To save students time and money, he urged institutions and school districts to forge innovative partnerships with the business community to give students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in high-demand, high-skill fields and earn a high school diploma at the same time they are completing requirements for an associate degree.

In December 2014, the coordinating board and the Missouri Department of Higher Education started work on a new coordinated plan, "Preparing Missourians to Succeed: A Blueprint for Higher Education." The first phase of the project will conclude this week when the last of nine regional public hearings are conducted in Springfield and Cape Girardeau. Members of the coordinating board are expected to approve the new plan in December. More information about the development of the new coordinated plan for higher education is located at http://dhe.mo.gov/blueprint.php.

 "Leaders in government, business, education and communities large and small recognize that Missouri's future depends on its ability to produce knowledgeable and skilled citizens," Russell said. "It has been a privilege to serve with so many dedicated public servants who share a commitment to providing a bright future through education opportunity for all."

 Prior to his tenure at the University of Missouri, Russell served in the United States Army as a commissioned officer, retiring in 1991 as a lieutenant colonel after a 22-year career, including assignments in infantry, personnel management and public affairs.