Sen. Jay Wasson’s Legislative Column for the Week of April 3, 2017

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Senate Considers Measure to Expand Degree Offerings at Missouri’s Higher Education Institutions

The Missouri Senate spent part of this week considering legislation that will create more pathways to expanded degree offerings at our public higher education institutions in order to meet workforce needs in every corner of the state.

Senate Bill 328 will allow Missouri’s public community colleges to offer four-year degree programs if authorized by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education. It will also allow public universities not under the University of Missouri System umbrella to collaborate with the University of Missouri to offer nonresearch doctoral degrees in allied health professions and other fields; if collaboration isn’t feasible, the university may apply to the Coordinating Board to offer the program independently.

We are fortunate here in the 20th District to be close to Missouri State University, which is particularly known for its College of Business. If SB 328 is signed into law, instead of only being able to offer undergraduate and graduate business degrees, Missouri State would, for example, be able to collaborate with the University of Missouri to offer students a doctorate in business administration. Again, if collaboration proved unviable, Missouri State could apply to offer the program independently.

Under SB 328, the University of Missouri remains the only state college or university authorized to offer doctor of philosophy degrees or first-professional degrees, such as optometry, law, veterinary medicine, etc. In addition, the West Plains Campus of Missouri State University and the State Technical College of Missouri may offer bachelor’s degrees if authorized.

Senate Bill 328 was specifically designed to first encourage collaboration between the University of Missouri and our other public universities. In order for a community college or university to offer a higher degree program outside of its approved mission, certain conditions must be met. Institutions must successfully show the Coordinating Board that they’ve made a good-faith effort to collaborate with the University of Missouri, possess the capacity to deliver a high-quality program, have demonstrated a need and have a clear plan to meet workforce demands.

Senate Bill 328 really goes hand in hand with several of my efforts this session to improve Missouri’s job training and workforce development capabilities — measures like Senate Bill 10, my job training bill, which will make it easier for businesses to work with our network of community colleges to get their employees trained or retrained in whatever capacity they need to continue operating successfully. It also complements Senate Bill 406, which would create four adult high schools, finally giving adults who never graduated a viable path to receive a true diploma. Senate Bill 406 also addresses Missouri’s shortage of skilled, trained workers by requiring each adult high school to offer an industry certification program in collaboration with public higher education institutions, based on regional workforce needs.

And of course, in March we saw Missouri’s 12 community colleges come together at the Capitol to officially establish the Missouri Community College Workforce Development Network in order to address the No. 1 challenge Missouri businesses face: the availability of a skilled workforce.

The 2017 session has really been about making the Show-Me State a place where businesses and job creators want to be. That being said, we will never reach our full potential — regardless of whatever other reform or economic development legislation we pass — if we cannot provide a well-trained workforce. Just like my adult high school and job training bills, SB 328 is at its core about transforming Missouri into a state where job creators know they can find the best, brightest and most highly skilled workers.

If you have any questions or comments regarding your state government, please feel free to contact me at (573) 751-1503. You are also welcome to e-mail me at