WARRENSBURG – During a stop at the University of Central Missouri Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 997, a higher-education bill that will help more Missouri undergraduates complete their degrees.
According to a news release, the bill will enable more students to take dual-credit courses while they are in high school, make it easier to transfer college credits between public higher education institutions, and require the development of additional policies and pilot programs to encourage degree completion.
“Over the last several years, Missouri has become a national leader to enable students to complete their higher education degrees, and this bill helps us continue to lead,” Nixon said in the release. “These provisions are good for students, they’re good for our colleges and universities, and they’re good for our economy — because education is the best economic development tool there is.”
According to the Associated Press, the legislation, which is sponsored by state Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, will require schools to adopt similar 42-credit-hour, lower-level curriculums, with the goal of public colleges and universities setting up similar general education classes so students can more easily transfer.
AP reports colleges and universities will need to implement the program by the fall 2018 school year. It will ensure students can transfer and get credit for those classes.
The legislation also allows community colleges and other two-year post secondary schools to offer classes to high school students.
It will create a scholarship for low-income high school students who take college classes.
UCM was the site of Missouri’s first Innovation Campus, a collaboration of businesses and public education institutions launched in 2012 as a way for Missouri students to earn affordable, fast-track degrees in high-demand fields. The Innovation Campus was recognized by President Barack Obama during a visit to UCM in 2013 as an innovative way to control college costs.
“Recognizing the cost of a higher education and the time it takes to earn a degree have a significant impact on college affordability and student debt, the University of Central Missouri created the Learning to a Greater Degree contract for student access, completion and success three years ago with a central provision that rewards a ‘15 to Finish Scholarship’ for taking the right 15 hours per semester to complete a four-year degree on time,” UCM President Charles Ambrose said.
According to the release, SB 997 requires the Coordinating Board and public colleges and universities to jointly develop additional policies and pilot programs that assist in degree completion, such as encouraging full-time enrollment and helping students map out a pathway to attaining their degrees.
Those policies will include “15 to Finish,” which focuses on keeping students on track for a degree by giving them a strong start on taking the needed number of credit hours per semester in order to graduate in four years. UCM is already a leader in the area of degree completion, offering “15 to Finish” scholarships since 2013.