Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Scholarships, Hi-Tech Jobs Focus of Hulshof Higher Ed Plan

Republican candidate for Governor Kenny Hulshof announced a higher education plan Wednesday that focuses on more scholarships and emphasizes preparing students for new economy jobs in biotechnology, engineering and math and sciences.

Hulshof pledged to expand eligibility for needs-based college scholarships and increase dollar amounts, but the campaign of his Democratc Jay Nixon said that voters should view those promises with a skeptical eye.

"Congressman Hulshof talks one way in Missouri but plays a different kind of game in Washington. He embraced Matt Blunt’s gutting of MOHELA, crippling its ability to help Missouri young people afford college. In Washington, Congressman Hulshof opposed expanding access to college time and again," said Zac Wright, a Missouri Democratic Party spokesman staffed to focus solely on the race for Governor.

A considerable portion of Hulshof's plan highlights bolstering education in math and science. The Congressman wants to designate a portion of Missouri's needs-based scholarships to those areas, and wants to craft a public-private partnership to strengthen current degree programs in those disciplines.

"State contributions will be leveraged by requiring a 2-to-1 match from businesses and philanthropic interests," reads the Hulshof plan. Within the same fund, Hulshof wants to create a scholars fund that would be aimed at attracting world-class researchers to Missouri. The idea is that they would increase the potential for new business start-ups in these fields around the state.

The Nixon campaign pointed out a host of Congressional votes by Hulshof meant to showcase his previous opposition to similar programs at the federal level. Most recently, the Nixon camp notes a 2007 vote "against creating 2,500 math, engineering and science scholarships for students from low and middle-income families."

The Nixon campaign also notes Hulshof's support of the sale of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, more commonly known as MOHELA. On funding for higher education, Hulshof said that starting in 2011, he will increase state funding to the "rate of inflation plus two percent." He called that plan "aggressive, yet affordable." To make sure that money is being spent correctly, Hulshof said he would require Missouri colleges and universities to file an annual report detailing appropriation decisions.

Nixon has also talked extensively about performing sweeping government audits to reduce waste and inefficiencies. His education plan focuses on expanding the state's A+ program, which allows students who graduate from certain high schools to attend community college tuition-free. Nixon has said all high school students who get good grades and "play by the rules" should be eligible for this program. Under his plan, those students could go on to a four-year university tuition-free by meeting grade and community service requirements.

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