The Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE) and Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE) are reviewing the state's higher education system to assess how effectively it meets Missouri's needs. The process began in January 2016, when the CBHE approved a new coordinated plan for higher education. The plan calls for a review of the state's higher education system – including governance and regulatory structures, efficiency, missions, adequacy of funding and selectivity policy consistent with the department’s statutory responsibility (§ 173.005, 173.020, and 173.030, RSMo).


The review also is being conducted in response to a request from Missouri Speaker of the House Todd Richardson and House Higher Education Committee Chair Steve Cookson following increased interest in the state’s higher education system and degree program approval process during the 2016 legislative session. The speaker asked that the review include recommendations on the overall structure of public two- and four-year higher education institutions and the institutions' missions.


Task force


The CBHE appointed a task force of representatives from the MDHE and Missouri’s public colleges and universities in June 2016 to conduct the review. The task force developed and endorsed an interim task force report, which was presented to the CBHE in December 2016.


During the first stage of its work, the task force focused on supply and demand issues related to higher education in Missouri and MDHE’s process for approving degree programs at the state’s public colleges and universities.


The task force developed a framework for program approval that would streamline the process for programs that are within a college or university’s state-defined mission. A more extensive and comprehensive review would be conducted for programs that fall outside a school’s mission. Colleges and universities would be required to show that the proposed program is needed and that they have developed a clear plan to meet the need. They also would have to ensure their ability – academically and financially – to offer a high quality degree program.


Specific recommendations in the report include:


  • The University of Missouri System – with campuses in Columbia, Rolla, Kansas City and St. Louis – is the state’s public research university and granter of research doctorates and should strengthen that role. The University of Missouri should continue to be the granter of PhDs and “first-professional” doctorates in areas that include medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine and law. Other public Missouri universities could be allowed to collaborate with the University of Missouri to offer these degrees to meet specific regional workforce needs.


  • A limited number of universities throughout the state could be allowed to offer “practice” doctorates in areas such as education and allied health. The programs should be offered through collaborative agreements with schools that already offer similar programs unless collaboration is not feasible or would not meet the needs of students and employers.


  • Community colleges would be limited to offering associate degrees and certificates except in certain cases. The CBHE could authorize a community college to offer a bachelor’s degree program if it becomes necessary for employment or certification or licensure in a specific field; it does not duplicate an existing program; and collaboration with a university to offer the bachelor’s degree is not feasible.


In each case, the MDHE and CBHE would determine if a college or university has the resources necessary to deliver a quality degree program.


The task force will continue to meet in the months ahead to address several additional issues including increasing access to higher education – especially for students in rural areas of the state and historically underserved populations, improving degree and certificate attainment, strengthening collaboration among the state’s colleges and universities and identifying specific workforce needs.


Materials from previous task force meetings are available here.


Additional information


More information about the Higher Education System Review can be found in the following CBHE Board Book items: