MSU: "We're full steam ahead. We think it's a great idea."
School Says It Plans to Stretch Out Money Over At Least 2 Years
Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder strongly suggested Monday that some colleges and universities feel like they are being "forced" and "intimidated" into implementing a program that would help higher education institutions train Missouri students to fill the shortage of healthcare workers in the state.
At issue is Governor Jay Nixon's Caring for Missourians initiative -- a $40 million dollar pot of money that will go schools to educate and train an additional 916 healthcare graduates. More than 80 percent of the state is designated as having a shortage of healthcare professionals.
In a conference call with statewide reporters Monday, Kinder said he is not against the concept of the program, but wants universities to be "keenly aware" that "funds may not be available next year."
"The issue is how this program will be funded today and going forward," Kinder said, adding that he's worried Nixon's plan might "only create a new financial burden on universities."
Kinder suggested that slagging general revenue could force universities to cut back in other areas such as scholarships and staff in order to keep the healthcare initiative afloat beyond the first year.
House Budget Chairman Allen Icet joined Kinder on the call to deliver the gloomy financial forecast. "2010 is going to be a bad year," Icet said. "It is not a good time to create a new program. It's time to batten down the hatchets now," he added.
Kinder did not specifically name any colleges or universities that have expressed concern about the financial solvency of the program's future, but said the goal of his call was to "heighten the profile of the issue and discussion."
He said he did not want to "have anyone forced into and intimidated into this program," and has heard unconfirmed "third-party" chatter that those concerns are out there.
When asked why he didn't reach out to colleges and universities before holding the call, Kinder said: "Because I didn't see it as part of my due diligence. I'm not going to make 15 calls and run it down."
He said that was the job of reporters.
Missouri State University Chief of Staff Paul Kincaid told The Notebook that the university has always been supportive of the healthcare training initiative. Under the program Missouri State will receive $2.2 million; Ozarks Technical Community College is slated to get $471,224.
"It's full steam ahead for us," Kincaid said. "We think it's a great idea. We understand that it's one-time money. But we think we may have some ways to phase it in and make it work beyond the first year," he explained. "We're planning to stretch it out maybe to 2 years."
Asked if the university felt pressured to accept the one-time funding, Kincaid responded, "absolutely not." "We felt this was a great idea from the beginning," he said.
Kincaid did not rule out the option of shifting funding from other programs to keep the expansion of healthcare training in place. "It's too early to tell," Kincaid said. He said he would hope lawmakers would see the merits of the program and provide more extensive funding in the future.
Spokesperson Scott Holste of Gov. Nixon's office said that "anyone who understands the critical need for healthcare professionals in Missouri supports this measure."
"The Governor and officials from the state’s public universities have been working since January to craft this measure," Holste said. "The universities recognize that there is a demand for health care professionals that they are not able to meet, so that’s why they have been working cooperatively with the Governor on this for several months," he said.