Board members, presidents and chancellors from Missouri’s colleges and universities have met in Jefferson City to talk about the issues facing higher education in the state in the second annual Governing Board Forum.

Higher Education Commissioner David Russell, Ph.D.

Higher Education Commissioner David Russell, Ph.D.

Higher Education Commissioner David Russell says one of the top concerns for higher education is funding for state financial aid programs – Access Missouri, Bright Flight and A-Plus. He says funding for those is not keeping up with demand.

“The one significant thing we could do to enable more people to take advantage of all these opportunities is to put more money into those financial aid programs so that we can actually give them awards that look somewhat like the tuition bill they’re receiving.”

Another worry is that too many high school graduates are spending much of their time in college in catch-up courses. Russell says implementing common core standards could improve that.

“If you look at elementary and secondary education, certainly you need the common core state standards so that everybody – the teachers, the students, the parents – know what the expectations are. These are the things that they need to know by the time they leave high school, and particularly if they plan on going on to post-secondary education.”

Governor Jay Nixon asked participants at the forum to talk to the lawmakers that represent their institutions in support of his veto of HB 253 that would cut Missouri’s corporate and individual income taxes. Russell considers how that message was received.

“Of course we try not to be political about these things so we kind of leave that debate about legislation to the legislators, however we can’t help but be concerned that bill might conceivably lead to a shortfall of $700 million to $800 million dollars in the state’s budget, and that would be a significant hit to higher education and several other agencies of state government.”

Russell says higher education leaders will be watching how that issue develops and meeting with lawmakers to discuss it.

AUDIO:  Hear the interview with David Russell, 12:19