MHEC Chair Robert Downer speaks to the Joint Committee on Education

The President of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact gave some good news to the State Joint Committee on Education. Missouri’s membership in the compact saved it $4.6 million dollars last year because of the spending power the 12-state compact holds when it comes to things like software, hardware and insurance.

But Lana Oleen says research is an important function of the compact, too, and they’ve identified some problems.

“There are a couple of areas that each of our Midwestern states need to be very careful in tracking, and one of those is raising tuition and not following that with some kind of financial aid package for the poorer students. That’s a piece that I think all of us need to have a little better handle on,” Oleen said.

Oleen says states really need to take a hard look at how to increase financial aid, to close the gap in the amount of students from low-income families that can’t afford to continue their education.

“The Midwest, historically, has had open doors to higher education opportunities, more so than other parts of the country. The way that we have done that is the lower tuition, but we are kind of changing our own model. It’s been tough for a long time to go into the very, very populated states along the coasts and get into the public universities. However, in the Midwest, we are starting a trend and we need to be careful,” Oleen said.

She shared some of the other results of the compact’s research with the committee.

“You are one of the leaders within these comparison states in regard to the math preparation for school. On the other hand, there is a gap, which all of us are experiencing, Missouri’s not alone, between the rich and the poor in those test scores. So some of this, Mr. Chairman, can be used for further discussion and deliberation within your committee,” Oleen said.

You can find out more from the MHEC by following this link.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]