For Release:
March 11, 2010

Contact: Kathy Love — 573.522.1463

Springfield — Missouri Governor Jay Nixon proposed changes today that will have far-reaching impacts on state government, including higher education, to address the state's $500 million budget gap.

Nixon wants to consolidate the departments of K-12 and higher education into one Department of Education "that prepares students from the day they walk into pre-school to the day they walk across the stage with their college diplomas," according to a speech Nixon delivered today in Springfield.

The consolidation, if approved, would affect the state's 1.2 million students in kindergarten through graduate school.

Commissioner of Higher Education Robert B. Stein says he applauds the governor's bold steps to address the extraordinary economic challenges facing Missouri.

"Unprecedented problems call for creative, innovative solutions," Stein said. "Centralization of administrative functions --- such as equipment, vehicles and data gathering -- could certainly result in savings. We will use our expertise to bring value to the discussion and explore all options for making the delivery of education to Missouri citizens more efficient."

Stein noted that interest in the concept of aligning pre-school through higher education - the so-called P-20 approach - is growing across the state and nation and deserves consideration by legislators and the public.

The governor also proposed restricting student financial aid to students who attend public colleges and universities. Currently, almost 50,000 students receive merit and need-based scholarships financed by the state and administered by the Department of Higher Education.

The debate over state-based financial aid being used by students to attend a private school has heated up during the past two legislative sessions, with bills introduced both years to reduce the amount available to students who choose higher-tuition private institutions.

Stein will facilitate a previously planned discussion among public and private institution presidents March 16 regarding how best to provide financial aid to Missouri students. He said as the governor's proposal moves forward, the Department of Higher Education will provide data to help inform future decisions about student financial aid.