JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - In a year that has seen many exciting changes across the landscape of higher education in Missouri, the Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE) expresses deep appreciation to Gov. Blunt for his vision and continued commitment to providing affordable, quality postsecondary education for our students.

A much-needed transformation for higher education - in the form of Senate Bill 389, which became law in August - set the stage for increased scholarship funding for Missouri students, implementation of accountability measures throughout the system, a mechanism for realizing tuition stabilization, and also provided for approximately $335 million to be invested in state-of-the-art education centers through the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative.

As outlined in last night's State of the State address, Gov. Blunt's FY 2009 budget recommendations serve to further strengthen the state’s commitment to increasing access to postsecondary education and to producing quality graduates in the high-demand fields necessary to compete in an ever-expanding global economy. The recommended $27.5 million increase in funds dedicated to Access Missouri recipients will provide $100 million in scholarship money to help Missourians realize their educational dreams, a significant investment in the future of our state and its citizens. To date, over 36,000 Missouri students have benefited from the needs-based Access Missouri Financial Assistance Program.

The governor's request for a $40 million (4.4%) increase in the operating budgets of our public colleges and universities signifies yet more opportunity for Missouri students, providing additional resources and tools for successful participation in higher education. CBHE Chair Kathryn Swan states, "The additional support means our colleges and universities will be better positioned to meet the challenges associated with increasing access and success of prospective students and ensuring Missouri produces a truly global workforce that will meet our future needs."

Gov. Blunt's recommendation for an additional $13.4 million, earmarked for healthcare education programs, will expand capacity at our public institutions to accommodate more students entering healthcare-related fields of study, an area clearly identified as experiencing crucial workforce shortages throughout Missouri. Without question, continued focus and support of Math, Engineering, Technology, and Science (METS) studies throughout Missouri’s education system are also essential in preparing Missouri students to not only face, but lead the way in tomorrow’s technologically-driven labor force.

The Coordinating Board is thankful and appreciative to Gov. Blunt for his support and his demonstrated commitment to firmly placing education as the top priority for our state. "This has certainly been a rewarding year for Missouri higher education," said Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Robert Stein. "The leadership and support of Gov. Blunt and the Missouri Legislature have enabled our higher education system to continue its mission of improving access and success to quality postsecondary education. Together, we are “Building Missouri's future… by degrees."