|Gov. Nixon Proposes More Higher Education Funding|
October 21, 2013/Associated Press
By Chris Blank
JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Monday he will propose a significant funding boost next year for colleges and universities and new resources for financial aid and scholarship programs.
Nixon did not specify the amount of additional money he will recommend for the 2015 budget he presents in January but said he wants "to be aggressive with the funding." He said the proposal will call for institutions to receive the extra money based on performance.
Speaking to higher education leaders in an office building ballroom across the street from the Governor's Mansion, Nixon said post-secondary education is not a luxury for a few but a necessary option for many. He said an affordable higher education should be within reach for all students and that education is the best economic development tool available.
The Democratic governor said he wants to put more dollars in the hands of more students while refining assistance programs. He said he is working on a proposal to enhance the Bright Flight academic scholarship with the goal of ensuring that the best students remain in Missouri for college and their lives after that.
Nixon also is proposing an initiative focused on training mental health professionals to fill needs in fields such as psychiatry, specialty nursing and applied behavioral analysis.
"By helping our most vulnerable citizens live up to their God-given potential and providing better job opportunities for our students, this initiative will change lives and strengthen our economy," he said.
He said of Missouri's 114 counties, 72 lack a licensed psychiatrist and 90 have no licensed behavioral analyst.
After several years of budget cuts, the current year's state budget gave public colleges and universities an additional $25 million that was distributed based on how the schools perform in such areas as student retention and graduation rates.
Nixon immediately froze $34 million from higher education after the budget took effect in July because of concerns the Republican-led Legislature would override his veto of an income tax cut. The governor released the money after the veto override attempt failed in September.
In all, Nixon froze $400 million of spending and released more than half of it after his veto was sustained.
Republican lawmakers criticized the budget restrictions as unjustified. Supporters of the tax-cut measure have said they will try again with new legislation.
Nixon thanked education officials Monday for supporting his veto of the tax measure.