Jefferson City -- Gov. Jay Nixon identified education as one of Missouri's "shared principles" in his State of the State address last night, along with hard work, fiscal responsibility, a strong health care system and transparent, accountable government.

The governor called education the key to economic strength. He reiterated his commitment, announced last week, to keep funding for the state's public colleges and universities at current levels in return for no tuition increases. "Under my proposed budget, not one Missouri student at a public Missouri college, university or community college will see their tuition go up next year. And that is a major victory for Missouri families," Nixon said.

The governor also announced support for Caring for Missourians, an initiative to train more health care workers by increasing capacity at higher education institutions. The $39 million effort would address shortages in nurses, pharmacists, therapists and other allied health professionals by graduating more than 900 new workers per year.

The state's two- and four-year institutions need more faculty, technology and classroom facilities to solve existing shortages, and to meet future health care challenges posed by Missouri's aging population. The economic impact is projected to be more than $53 million per year in income for graduates.

Commissioner of Higher Education Robert B. Stein said Gov. Nixon's support for Caring for Missourians boosts the economy while focusing on the future. "Health care is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, and one of the most highly paid," Stein said. "Caring for Missourians will improve access to health care, increase the educational capacity of approximately 26 institutions, and ensure a higher quality of life for its graduates."

Gov. Nixon's plan would also beef up the popular A+ program that lets graduates from A+ high schools attend community college at no cost. Calling the expanded program the Missouri Promise, Gov. Nixon said it will allow students already in the A+ program to graduate debt-free from a public four-year institution as long as they keep a B average and give back to their community.

Kathryn Swan chairs the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, which oversees the state's system of colleges and universities. Swan said the governor's plan will enable more students to attend college at a time when higher education is crucial for workers and the state's economic well-being.

"The Governor's plan for higher education will greatly benefit all Missouri families and our state," Swan says. "Missouri is 47th in the nation in per capita support for education. The governor understands the time has come to turn that around: to seize this opportunity to open college doors to more students, reduce their debt load and provide institutions with essential support."