Four state representatives, one state senator, two representatives for federal legislators, and the president of the Missouri Community College Association spoke at a forum in Trenton November 29th. The legislative forum was in Cross Hall on the campus of North Central Missouri College. The speakers were asked to answer one question: What is your perspective of community colleges, and how does that perspective shape your approach to state and federal funding appropriations?
MCCA President and Chief Executive Officer Brian Millner said that even though he did not attend a community college himself, he understands the value of community colleges from educational and community support perspectives.
Millner noted that 2021 was the most successful year community colleges have had in the Missouri legislature in the last couple of decades. Legislators and the governor supported a $10 million core funding increase.
Millner also commented on the MO Excels Workforce Initiative. He said the governor and legislature have been supportive of one-time funding for workforce development projects, and community colleges have benefited from that.
Millner added that about $40 million to $50 million of new money was invested in community colleges in the prior year.
State Senator Dan Hegeman chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said the state has had some good years and used resources, which is why it was able to do what it did for higher education last year.
The state is just now back to the 2002 level in core funding.
Hegeman said there will be demand on ongoing expenses this year.
Hegeman reported there is a little more than $2 billion in the General Revenue Fund. He commented that is more than the fund has had in a long time, if not one of the highest amounts.
State Representative Rusty Black works on the Budget Committee. He agreed that Missouri is in a strong time in regards to the budget, and it is the strongest it has been since he has been in the legislature. Black said when he was first elected, there were cuts being made to areas, including core funding for community colleges and higher education.
He reported that at the close of business for November 24th, the Missouri Department of Revenue’s general revenue was at $4.343 billion, which was down 109 million dollars ($109 million) compared to last year.
Black said his goal is to spend money as wisely as possible, and he believes the leaders at institutions like NCMC do their best to spend the money wisely, too.
He commented Missouri community colleges are education institutions that can make the fastest change to meet workforce needs in the state, and they are an integral part of education.
Fred Adkins was at the legislative forum representing United States Senator Roy Blunt. Adkins reported the ever-growing cost of higher education and the economy that has higher education requirements have resulted in serious systemic workforce issues.
Adkins said Blunt’s office also cosponsored the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act to help students access training for 7.3 million high-skilled labor jobs and allows for Pell grants to be used for certificates and training programs not usually considered higher education.
Thomas Riggs represented U. S. Congressman Sam Graves. Riggs commented that he turned 24 last week, so he had a different perspective on higher education than most of the other speakers at the forum. He said he and his classmates were pushed to go to four-year universities.
Riggs stated community colleges are able to partner with communities to make sure employers have employees trained at those institutions, which is what makes community colleges great.
At a legislative forum at North Central Missouri College in Trenton November 29th, speakers were asked to answer one question. It was what is your perspective of community colleges, and how does that perspective shape your approach to state and federal funding appropriations?
State Representative J. Eggleston chairs the Rules Committee, which he explained is an interim committee between lower committees that do the initial development of policy and bills that make it to the House floor. Higher Education is one of the committees for which he reads bills.
Eggleston talked about two bills he plans to submit in his last year as a state representative. He noted they are not necessarily directly related to colleges, but they indirectly relate to everyone.
One of the bills involves initiative petition reform, which he said is a way for citizens to make changes to laws or the constitution. He reported about half of the states in the country have an initiative petition system.
Eggleston commented it has not really worked like that for a long time, and probably the last citizen-driven petition in Missouri was the Hancock Amendment in 1980. He explained he has seen other purposes for initiative petitions, and usually there are people not from Missouri driving them.
Another bill Eggleston plans to submit involves unemployment indexing. He commented employers in the state in the last year or so have said any help is hard to find. That includes with corporations, local businesses, government, community colleges, prisons, and veterans homes.
Eggleston said some states index unemployment, which means the higher the unemployment rate, the longer someone can be on.
He believes the purpose of higher education is to help students get occupational knowledge and skills they need to get a job. He thinks no institutions do that better than two-year ones.
State Representative Randy Railsback reported he planned to go to Trenton Junior College after graduating from Hamilton High School in 1974. That changed with the beginning of the farm crisis.
He believes NCMC is one of the best kept secrets in Northern Missouri.
Railsback said he had been to Jefferson City before becoming a state representative, but he was not prepared for how education in general has been under attack.
Railsback added that community colleges shine, and people are proud of the community college system in Missouri.
State Representative Dean VanSchoiack said he is “thrilled” NCMC is coming to Savannah and Buchanan County. He believes the partnership NCMC will have with Missouri Western State University will be “outstanding.”
VanSchoiack thinks it is important to help students.
Speakers at a legislative forum in Trenton took questions from the audience at the end of the event. The forum was on the North Central Missouri College campus November 29th.
One question involved pushback on Medicaid expansion in Missouri due to other programs not being fully funded and a fear of reduced funding. The question was is it still concern?
State Senator Dan Hegeman said, yes, Medicaid expansion was still a concern. He explained the issue went on the ballot without a funding mechanism, which is why it went to court.
Hegeman noted the matter will impact general revenue in the future. He hopes to do things to moderate and extend the timeline on the impact.
State Representative Rusty Black said when discussion of Medicaid expansion was happening, we were going through the pandemic.
Black thinks it will grow into a stress point with increasing the size of government.
Another question was what will be the biggest impact community colleges will have in the next five years?
Missouri Community College Association President and Chief Executive Officer Brian Millner said community colleges have to be able to change with the needs of the workforce.
Millner commented that there will probably be things in the next five years that we cannot predict right now that will be necessary with jobs and the workforce. That is where he believes community colleges will continue to shine.
There was also talk about a 13th community college in Missouri. One question involved why the legislators who talked about it sounded like they thought the state does not need another community college district.
Millner said it is a balance, and he believes in access to higher education, which is what community colleges are for. He explained the discussion of a 13th community college started with a group from Cape Girardeau.
Millner noted it was similar to what happened in Saint Joseph. He said the “plates shift” some, and the needs have to be responded to.
There are 12 community colleges and 13 public four-year institutions in the state.
Millner was one of eight speakers at the legislative forum.