Bill attempts to change education funding

Dr. Julio León

Dr. Julio León

Another bill in the Missouri House of Representatives, Bill 1865, is causing a stir in Jefferson City.

With the legislative session coming to a close, the House and Senate are still debating over the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority bill.

University President Julio León said the speaker pro tem, Rep. Carl Bearden (R-St. Charles), has filed a different bill, which attempts to change the way higher education is funded.

“That is the bill that says the state will try to increase funding for higher education until we reach the level we have had back in 2002,” León said.

He said when that level is reached, there would be a cap.

“Funding would not increase anymore for higher education,” he said. “Instead, new money from then on would be in the form of scholarships to the students, but those students would be able to use those funds either in private university or in public university.”

In the perfected version of the bill, it states, “When the operating budget appropriation exceeds the level contemplated […], the additional moneys in excess of the level contemplated […] shall be delivered to approved public institutions in the form of aid to scholarship programs rather than institutional operating aid […].”

León said this particular bill explains there might be a diversion of some funds that would have gone to public colleges and universities. Instead, it would be diverted to private institutions. He said because of opposition to capping appropriations, Bearden accepted an amendment that would not cap the funding.

“From then on, we’re going to increase it in the future by two and half percent every year,” León said.

He said this year the University is receiving a two-percent increase.

“At that rate of increase, it’s going to take until the year 2011 before we reach where we were in 2002,” León said.

He said it is like capping it and the level they are going to reach in 2011 is as “appropriate” as it was in 2002.

“That does not make any sense,” León said.

The bill has been passed in the House and has been sent to the Senate.

“The process called for the bill to be heard,” he said.

León said Bearden went to the Senate and introduced his bill.

“As he was introducing it for discussion and consideration, he also stated that if this bill was not accepted in its form that came from the House by the Senate then the MOHELA bill would not become a reality in the House,” he said.

He said Bearden said the bills were joined together.

“If one dies, the other one dies,” León said. “If one is successful, the other one is successful. That’s the situation right now.”

León said it is not common for a person to go to the other side and threaten the other body.

“You have to be sure you have support in your own house,” he said. “It may be a question of just bluffing.”

León said there was also an amendment on the bill that would restrict tuition increases at colleges and universities.

He said the Senate took HB 1865 apart. He said this bill upset the senators.

“They eliminated all of the provisions related to capping of appropriations,” León said. “The only thing they left was $12 million in scholarships.”

León said he does not like any part of the House bill.

“I think it would be bad for public higher education,” he said. “It’s based on false premises of inefficiency in public institutions. That’s not true.”

As far as the MOHELA bill, León said it has to be determined by Friday.

“There is a lot of activity going on in Jefferson City right now,” he said.