Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Moment with Mike -- Making Higher Ed More Easy and Effective

     In the coming months I will discuss some of the legislation that was passed and signed into law this last session.  I will also be sending you an “End of Session” report that will highlight some of the bills passed with short descriptions and will also give a break-down on the budget showing how your tax money was spent.  In addition to the thirteen budget bills, there were just over one hundred other bills that were passed and they are now being scrutinized by the Governor as he weighs the decision to sign them or not.
     Among the first bills to be signed by the Governor this year was a bill that I sponsored and was drawn up through a collaborative effort of individuals that represented two-  and four- year institutions, the Department of Higher Education and the General Assembly.  The purpose of the bill (HB1042) is to make the path to a two-year or a four-year degree more efficient and effective.
     Higher education institutions across our country are caught in a dilemma in that funding support is diminishing and costs are rising.  This necessitates higher tuition and fees and students are carrying more burden with student debt going up every year.  The student debt in our country is now close to a trillion dollars.  Students often times graduate with a large debt and then have a difficult time finding a job that will allow them to pay back the debt in a timely manner.  This is happening at a time when the need for graduates of post-secondary institutions is increasing and statistics indicate that by the year 2025, over 60% of jobs available in our state will require some kind of certification or a degree.  At this time, less than 40% of those in our workforce under the age of 35 have a degree and in order for us to meet that need for the future we must increase our output of credentialed workers by over 4% per year.  It will be necessary to do everything we can to make it easier for our students to attain some type of higher education training without lowering the standards and keeping up with the ever-changing technology.
     It is this scenario that stimulated the need for HB 1042 which we believe will not only reduce some of the obstacles that students face but also  increase efficiency.  It seems that time is the enemy when we are in school.  The longer we take to get through school, the more it costs, the more debt we accumulate and more time is spent with little or no income.  The bill will require the Coordinating Board for Higher Education to develop a library of core courses that will be transferrable to all public institutions of higher learning in the state.  It also charges the board with developing a system to allow students to reverse transfer college credits from a four-year institution to a two-year institution.  It contains a provision that requires institutions to make remedial study courses more effective so they do not delay students from enrollment in college-level courses and, lastly, it changes the certification of proprietary schools so that they can be more responsive to the needs of those students who are training for specific jobs.
     Some of these things are already being done in our state.  Northwest MO State University works closely with North Central Community College to facilitate some of the things discussed and others may do the same.  However, there needs to be a collaborative effort across the state to become more efficient in our delivery of higher education.  Higher education is  instrumental in supplying the workforce that we need for our future economy.

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