Area legislatures work together to promote higher education

Local legislators have filed several bills that, if passed, will affect what Missouri Southern is called, as well as the programs it can offer.

The university status of South-ern is once again on the drawing boards, and Joplin area members of the General Assembly seem to believe the change is near.

Gary Nodler, state senator for the 32nd District and Southern alumnus, agrees.

“I think that the time has come for that change to occur and the political environment is right here for that to happen,” he said.

Nodler said he believes it’s important for the College to be recognized as a university because of its close proximity to Pittsburg State University.

“I believe it’s critical to the Missouri Higher Education System for Missouri Southern to be positioned to be a successful competitor against that worthy institution,” he said.

“We need to be able to have the same sort of advanced degree offerings that can be obtained there, so we can provide a true university experience for our students.”

One argument against giving Southern the title of university is that it doesn’t offer graduate degrees.

Nodler said right now, the Southern campus hosts students who are seeking master’s degrees from other institutions.

He and other local legislators are working together to get a bill passed that would “formalize agreements between those institutions which offer advanced degrees and those campuses that host them.”

Nodler said when a master’s degree is issued, it would bear the name of both institutions involved. This would also help in marketing the College, because the Southern catalog would be able to include a list of master’s degrees, which might make the institution more desirable to some students who wish to further their studies.

“Where Missouri Southern staff, faculty and classrooms are being used to provide this education, it’s important for Missouri Southern to also be a part of the diploma granting process,” he said.

“I think it’s a very creative solution because it allows advanced degrees to be offered on campus without additional costs to the state.”

“I am extremely confident we’re going to get it passed this year,” said Bryan P. Stevenson, state representative for the 128th District.

“I am proud to have Missouri Southern sit in my district.”