For Release:
January 21, 2010

Contact: Kathy Love — 573.522.1463

Jefferson City — Gov. Jeremiah "Jay" Nixon promised a workforce "ready to run and second to none" in his State of the State address last night, noting that education and job training are fundamental to the state's economic recovery.

The governor's "Training for Tomorrow" program, which pairs community colleges with local industries to meet workforce needs, is a key component of his 2010 Jobs Plan. He proposed a 20 percent increase in funding for customized training programs, many to be delivered at community colleges in high demand fields such as alternative energy and health care.

He noted that Caring for Missourians, a 2009 priority of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, began to be implemented last fall. Over the next two years, it is expected to enroll significantly more students in fields such as nursing, dentistry, optometry and medical technology.

Tuition costs have put college out of the reach of many Missourians, Gov. Nixon said, but an agreement he reached for the second year in a row with public colleges and universities to freeze tuition in return for keeping budget cuts to 5 percent helps families afford higher education. The proposed budget cut, which amounts to about $50 million, results from drastic reductions in Missouri state revenue and reduced federal stabilization funds.

The governor vowed to pursue expanding the A+ program to fix a "blatant inequity" that limits free community college tuition to graduates of designated A+ schools. Currently, one-third of Missouri high school students can't apply for the free tuition benefit because they are not at an eligible high school.

The governor also proposed funding a scholarship program for post-9/11 veterans and their survivors with savings gleaned from new processes to award license fee offices. The program was passed into law in 2008 but never funded. Missouri's two major state scholarship programs — Access Missouri and Bright Flight — maintain current funding in the governor's proposed budget.

The Coordinating Board for Higher Education expressed their commitment to the governor's 2010 budget.

Lowell Kruse of St. Joseph, chair of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, said the governor's message reassures students and their families that college will be kept affordable. "The governor really gets it," Kruse said. "He fully understands the link between college, jobs and the economy. Only by ensuring a well-trained, educated workforce can Missouri hope to attract and keep the kind of jobs that will help the economy rebound."

The coordinating board's vice-chair, Mary Beth Luna Wolf of St. Louis, said that even in difficult economic times, education should be seen as an essential investment. "Other states have drastically cut funding for higher education," Wolf said. "Our goal is to make higher education a priority, so Missouri will emerge from the recession stronger and poised to grow."