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University of Central Missouri
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Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
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nixon.billsigning.june2016

Governor Signs Bill Aimed at Holding College Costs Down, Increase Completion

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (June 16, 2016) – Senate Bill 997, legislation that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said is good for students, education institutions, and the state’s economy, was signed June 16 during a press conference conducted by the governor at the University of Central Missouri.

While signing the legislation during a brief ceremony in the Ward Edwards Building atrium, Gov. Nixon also recognized UCM for its efforts to create innovative programs that will help students graduate faster and with less debt. The signing took place with the governor joined by UCM President Chuck Ambrose, Board of Governors President Marvin “Bunky” Wright, Provost and Chief Learning Officer Deborah Curtis, and the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. David Pearce, R-District 21.

Gov. Nixon signs SB 997

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signs Senate Bill 997 during a press conference June 16 in the Ward Edwards Building atrium at the University of Central Missouri. Behind him, from left, are Deborah Curtis, UCM provost-chief learning officer; bill sponsor Sen. David Pearce, R-District 21; Marvin “Bunky” Wright, UCM Board of Governors president; and Chuck Ambrose, UCM president.

The omnibus higher education bill, SB911, will help more undergraduates complete their degrees through provisions that enable students to take dual credit courses while they are in high school, make it easier to transfer college credits between public higher education institutions, and require the development of additional policies and pilot programs to encourage degree completion.

“Over the last several years, Missouri has become a national leader to enable students to complete their higher education degrees, and this bill helps us continue to lead,” the governor said. “These provisions are good for our students, they’re good for our colleges and universities, and they are good for our economy – because education is the best economic development tool there is.”

In introducing the governor, Ambrose talked about how SB 997 helps to address issues in higher education that were outlined by education and government leaders who participated in the higher education summit commenced by the governor in six years ago. The event took place only weeks after Ambrose began work at UCM.

“It was August 2010 at a meeting in Jefferson City when Gov. Nixon set an agenda for higher education in the state of Missouri…The University of Central Missouri has been a direct beneficiary of the primary points that were delivered to public education on that August day. Since that time, we’ve grown by 27 percent in our student body, produced 23 percent more graduates, held cost below inflation three of those six years since the summit having no tuition increase at all for our students,” Ambrose said.

 He added, “There’s been a confluence of impact of these factors which has allowed our aggregate student loan debt to go down $10 million over the last two years. That’s what happens when policy and education meet leadership, and that’s what the governor of this state provided for Missouri. Since August 2010, he’s worked diligently on each of these issues moving forward.”

During the press conference, the governor noted that under Senate Bill 997, Missouri’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE) will work with the state’s public colleges and universities to develop a 42-credit-hour block of foundational courses that can be transferred to any other public higher education institution in the state. This will allow students to get college credit for classes they have already taken.

SB 997 also creates a scholarship fund to help low-income students take dual credit courses while they are still in high school, thereby giving them a head start on their higher education while helping to reduce their college costs.

Additionally, the bill requires the CBHE and public colleges and universities to jointly develop more policies and pilot programs that assist students in degree completion, such as encouraging full-time enrollment and helping students map out a pathway to attaining their degrees. These policies will include “15 to Finish,” which focuses on keeping students on track for a degree by giving them a strong start on taking the needed number of credit hours per semester in order to graduate in four years.

 The governor praised UCM for taking a leadership role in the area of degree completion. The university established a “15-to-Finish Scholarship” program in 2013 at the same time it developed its Learning to a Greater Degree contract for student completion. Designed to help students graduate in four years and reduce the cost of their education, “15-to-Finish Scholarships” are awarded to students who began their studies at UCM the summer of 2013 or later. Students who meet eligibility criteria are awarded this scholarship during their final semester at the university. The scholarship consists of a $1,000 award for students who began their education at UCM as freshmen and a $500 award for students who became UCM students as new transfers.

“We are grateful to Gov. Nixon for signing Senate Bill 997, and legislators who helped make it possible,” Ambrose said, “knowing the ’15 to Finish Act’ will promote on-time degree completion, and ultimately help all students in Missouri to reduce their college debt burden.”

UCM’s Learning to a Greater Degree initiative with the “15-to-Finish Scholarship” has had a positive impact on the campus. Here are just a few examples of the types of progress being made:

Gov. Nixon also recognized UCM for its leadership in collaboration with businesses and public education institutions. As an example, he cited The Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC), which opened in 2012 and was recognized by President Barack Obama during a visit to UCM in 2013 as an innovative way to control college costs. The governor supported the partnership effort that includes the university, Lee’s Summit R-7 School District and its Summit Technology Academy, Metropolitan Community Colleges and numerous business partners. He also supported legislation to make similar programs possible in other parts of the state.