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Higher Education Funding Bill To See Senate Floor Debate

Emily Donaldson
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (MDN) – After Gov. Jay Nixon called for increased performance-based funding for higher education in his State of the State address this January, a funding model doing just that will finally reach the Senate floor for debate.

The higher education funding formula bill was voted out of the Senate Education Committee Wednesday in a 7-2 vote and is sponsored by the committee chair, Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg.

The formula would divide higher education funding into six main categories within each institution. The six divisions include academic support, institutional support, instruction, public service, research and student services.

To derive the accurate allocation of funds, the model uses 10 peer states surrounding Missouri — the five above and five below — in the Bureau of Economic Analysis using the 2011 midyear population estimates. It uses a median number to calculate the funding for Missouri’s own formula.

Ten percent of the total funds would go toward performance-based funding. If an institution satisfies certain performance measures such as increased student retention, better graduation rates or improved learning, it would be eligible to receive this kind of funding.

However, if an institution does not perform well enough to receive additional funding, it does not have to fear losing all support. There is a provision within the measure that would require funding to be no less than 98 percent of the previous year’s funding.

Pearce said that it is important higher education if funded based on performance instead of which institution has the most political representation. He cited a $1.3 million amendment proposed in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday by Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, that sought additional funding for Missouri State University as an example of this.

“This is a ringing endorsement of why we need performance and formula funding,” Pearce said.

A House bill that would create taxing districts to support University of Missouri Extension programming was also voted out of committee in Wednesday’s hearing.

Taxes would only be levied with a simple majority of votes within the county. An overseeing council for each district would supervise the direction of funds and extension programming.

Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, said that he worried about additional taxes being levied for an already funded program.

“I do still have some concerns about taxing authority but they are mitigated by the counties having the option to opt out,” Emery said.

St. Louis County has been carved out of both the Senate and House versions of the bill. The county was carved out because St. Louis lawmakers said that their constituents already pay many taxes that contribute to Missouri’s tourism industry.

The Senate version of the bill has already passed the Senate and is currently being debated within the House Committee on Agriculture and Business.

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