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Lobbyist Money Help  

Bill would change how higher education appropriated

April 05, 2005
By: Chris Blank
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Citing a growing national trend away from direct appropriations into higher education, the second-ranking Republican in the House said he wants to change an appropriations system that gives the UM system $320 million more than its closest rival.

Rep. Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, said his goal was to force schools to become more receptive to student needs while increasing efficiency.

"There are great institutions in this state, and we need to fund those, but I believe at some point we need to focus on the students."

Bearden's bill would appropriate to colleges based upon the number of students attending the school, would give every Missouri citizen a limited subsidy to attend school, would establish performance requirements associated with enrollment, graduation and student satisfaction.

It would not become effective, however, until colleges receive the amount of money appropriated to them in the 2002 budget. Bearden said he did not think this could happen for at least another three to five years.

Higher Education Committee Chairman Gayle Kingery, R-Poplar Bluff, said the more he explored the issue, the more questions he found. Kingery said the committee planned to vote on the bill next week but bill provisions to appropriate based solely on the number of students enrolled would be eliminated.

Kingery said the bill's design was to create a report card, similar to the one created for K-12 education, and appropriate based upon the grades each college receives.

"The there needs to be some kind of measure of a school's success and a discussion on how to best bring this into higher education," he said. "I think that if schools exceed or excel based upon the grade card, we need to reward with more money. If they don't achieve, I don't think we should punish them. I think we need to ask what we need to do to help them succeed."

UM system President Elson Floyd said the proposal does not consider the different missions the state has assigned the state's colleges. Floyd said schools that focus on high-cost science and medicine programs need to receive more money than schools not charged with these types of programs.

"Students will be faced with increasing costs or the programs will have to be cut," he said.

The UM system, which has taken several budget hits, has been criticized by some lawmakers for how its funds are used.

Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder testifying at Bearden's request said that in general, colleges spend their money less efficiently the more they have.

"Universities aren't using these incremental funds, these extra monies that you give them to make college more accessible for low-income students," he said.

Vedder, who wrote a book about funding higher education that calls for using fewer--if any--state dollars.

Vedder said in addition to increasing efficiency and the incentive to consider student needs, giving state money to the students and a minimal amount to the schools allows the legislature to better dictate educational policy.

"The student approach allows you to achieve social and other objectives that you can't get with funding for institutions," he said.

Minority Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, said the state needs to find ways to increase education spending first.

Harris said he has concerns the plans biggest impact would be to shortchanging both public colleges and students.

In earlier action, the House Budget Committee approved an amendment to move $1 million from the state lottery commission to the K-12 education.

Rep. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, said the cuts would be focused the commission's advertising.

"I'm not big fan of a numbers racket that's a regressive tax on the poor," he said.

Lambke said that the prizes and not advertising prompted people to play.

"When the mob ran this, they didn't advertise for it."

Rep. Barbara Fraser, D-St. Louis County, said many state programs depend on lottery funds for their budget and that cutting it would only put a tougher strain on the budget.

"The less we advertise the lottery, the less we even acknowledge that we even have a lottery, the less these funds are."

The budget must be approved by both the House and Senate by May 6.