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Gov. Matt Blunt came to Cape Girardeau last week as part of a statewide tour to sign legislation passed in this year's legislative session that provides $350 million over the next six years for construction projects at state-funded colleges and universities. In addition, the legislation significantly increases the number of need-based scholarships and puts caps on future tuition increases.
The stop at Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus, which is nearing completion, was particularly noteworthy because the legislation authorizes payment of the state's pledge of $17.2 million for the arts campus. Southeast also will receive $4.5 million for a business incubator facility, $2.6 million for an autism center and $173,000 for a dental hygiene clinic at the university's Sikeston campus.
The funding is made possible by the sale of assets from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, which underwrites low-interest student loans. Officials say they expect MOHELA to keep interest rates low while generating the funding for construction needs.
Because of tight budgets in recent years, higher education in Missouri has had something of a drought in state-funded construction projects. The MOHELA plan, developed by Blunt and his staff, is a welcome injection of funding that will be felt all over Missouri.
The creative financing play took several turns from inception to last week's bill signing, and the final result is a tribute to the efforts of educators, legislators and the governor to serve the best interests of Missouri's higher education for years to come.