Senator David Pearce – Capitol Report for the Week of May 2

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Higher Education Legislation Awaits House Vote

This week at the Capitol my comprehensive higher education legislation, Senate Bill 997, was placed on the House calendar for a third reading. The bill would establish multiple provisions pertaining to our state’s higher education, and it aims to increase access to quality education, heighten transparency between students and universities and create more efficiency in the system. If this legislation is approved by the House, it will move to the Senate for a final vote, then on to the governor’s desk.

The bill contains provisions relating to scholarship funding, tuition information availability, student loan forgiveness, financial aid for veterans and other plans that will streamline Missouri’s education system.

Under SB 997, the Wartime Veteran’s Survivor Grant program would be reauthorized to provide financial aid to wartime veterans’ spouses and children who are seeking college degrees. The consequences of war extend beyond the battlefield, and this program helps support military families around Missouri who have suffered as a result of their loved one’s sacrifices.

Senate Bill 997 also contains multiple provisions dealing with higher education information and how it can become more readily accessible to the public. The bill would mandate the Department of Higher Education (DHE) to craft notification guidelines for employers that offer public service loan forgiveness. It would also create an online list of public and private institutions’ academic information on the DHE’s and State Coordinating Board for Higher Education’s websites. There is a lot of information that prospective college students need to know when navigating or just beginning their academic careers, and comprehensive collections like these would help combine that information into one or two cohesive resources.

This Senate bill would also help keep current students on track to graduate by positively encouraging them to follow their degrees to finish. One of the programs that will work to accomplish this is the “15 to Finish Act” that outlines student plans to finish their programs, rewards successful on-time goal achievement and maps out tailor-made career and study targets for degree seekers. The “Guided Pathways to Success Act,” which would also be enacted under this legislation, gathers similar majors together, allowing students to have access to proactive advising and promoting partnership between universities with transfer programs. Additionally, SB 997 would create a collaborative pilot program for students concurrently enrolled in two-year and four-year colleges that offers them greater access to academic and student support resources.

Another goal of this legislation is to allow public two-year colleges to offer postsecondary course options to high school students and to enact a certification process for universities to become approved dual credit course providers. Dual credit courses are classes provided by postsecondary institutions and taught by approved teachers to high school students. This allows high schoolers to earn both high school and college-level credit simultaneously. These provisions would allow high school students to get a jump-start on pursuing their college careers, and potentially give them the leg up they need to be successful later in life.

As always, please feel free to contact me or my staff with any questions or concerns at any time. We look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions and trying to answer any questions you may have. You can reach us by phone at 866-277-0882 (toll-free) or (573) 751-2272, or by fax at (573) 526-7381.

Senator David Pearce serves Caldwell, Carroll, Howard, Johnson, Lafayette, Livingston, Ray and Saline counties in the 21st State Senatorial District.