Nixon aims to increase Missouri's number of college degree holders 25%

Nixon proposed his budget for Fiscal Year 2012 during the address.
Gov. Jay Nixon addresses an audience in the capitol building Wednesday night during his annual State of the State address. Nixon expressed his desire to increase funding to the A+ Scholarship programs.

Gov. Jay Nixon gave his State of the State address Wednesday at the capitol building in Jefferson City, speaking on scholarships and making a college education more accessible.

Nixon said his 2012 scholarship budget includes millions of dollars to go to programs such as Bright Flight, Access Missouri and A+ Scholarship Program. He said these have helped more than 50,000 students afford college.

Nixon said some students couldn't get A+ scholarships because their schools weren't A+ schools. He wants every student in Missouri to have the opportunity to go to college; regardless of what school they attended.

"That's just not fair," Nixon said.

Nixon said Missouri schools have kept their tuition flat for two consecutive years.

"While tuition soared by double digits around the nation, Missouri schools kept tuition and fees flat for two years running," Nixon said. "Even if some schools impose modest tuition increases next year, we'll have protected Missouri families from the sharp tuition spikes seen in other states."

Nixon said in his written address that only 35 percent of Missouri adults have college degrees. Missouri needs to move that number up to 60 percent for Missouri adults to compete for top jobs in the economy, he said.

"In his State of State address last night, Gov. Nixon continued to demonstrate his commitment to higher education by constraining the impact of the economic downturn on higher education with a proposed 7 percent reduction in state appropriations for operations and $12 million in additional funding for scholarships for students," Interim UM System President Steve Owens said in a statement. "Given the state's projected revenue shortfalls, we appreciate the governor's support for the state's high education needs in this tough economic environment."

According to the release, the UM system said they are committed to the Nixon's goal of having 60 percent of all Missourians graduate with a college degree by 2020. The UM System said funding, however, will play a role in their attempt to meet these goals.

"College affordability has been a top priority of mine since day one," Nixon said.

Nixon said applications at all of Missouri's universities saw an increase in applications last year and college enrollment overall increased by 10,000 students.

Aside from addressing higher education, Nixon said in his address he wants to focus on ethics reform in association with political campaigns, keeping businesses in the state of Missouri and bringing broadband to every corner of the state, among other goals.

"We need to set strict limits on campaign contributions that are undermining the sovereignty of the people and subverting the fundamental principle of free and fair elections," Nixon said.

Nixon ended his address saying regardless of differences in opinion and disagreements, the goal is common good.

"It's worth remembering that we all serve the people of Missouri," Nixon said.

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