State government’s top lawyer says Governor Blunt’s latest proposal to use state student loan authority assets for higher education capital improvements is a bad deal. Attorney General Jay Nixon has sent a nine-page letter to the board of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority saying Governor Blunt’s latest plan is “ill-conceived” and will, as he puts it, “fundamentally alter the direction, purpose and focus of MOHELA from helping students cope with the increasingly high cost of higher education.” Governor Blunt wants to use 350-million dollars of MOHELA assets. The board is expected to consider the plan on Friday. It’s been endorsed by members of the governor’s party, by some democrats, and by some higher education leaders. But Nixon blasts the deal as having been worked out in secret, without public scrutiny or comment, and suggests it breaks the state law that specifically says MOHELA”s only purpose is to make sure students have access to guaranteed or insured student loans. He says the changes the Blunt administration wants to make would “constitute a wholesale abandonment of MOHELA’s purposes.” He also cites a letter written in April by MOHELA Chief Executive Officer Raymond Bayer saying the agency would need a change in state law to fund the governor’s projects. Nixon calls the latest plan by the Blunt administration a “raid” on MOHELA assets. State Representatrive Clint Zweifel of Florissant, a Democrat, says he has asked to speak at the board’s meeting Friday but has been told no public comment will be allowed. The House refused to take up his bill last spring calling for an independent consultant to evaluate the fiscal soundness of the proposal. Nixon calls the latest proposal ambiguous, filled with illusory considerations, not credible in some places, and filled with guarantees that actually don’t guarantee much, if anything. He says arguments that MOHELA could afford to lose those assets without harming its service to students are either an indictment of MOHELA’s past performance or an indication that MOHELA could do more than it has been doing. Zweifel says the deal could be tied up in court for years.
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