Steven Bernstetter
The MOHELA deal is back and better than ever...or not. The proposal orginally intended to take $350 million in assets and spend it on capital improvement projects for Missouri's public universities. A large chunk of this appropriation was intended to fund a number of projects relating to the biotech industry. Political pressure derailed that version of the project, forcing Governor Blunt and his cohorts to rethink the distribution of those funds. Well they're back with a new list, which can be viewed here, and, not surprisingly, the biotech proposals are gone.

The new list has received somewhat mixed reviews: Republicans are mostly for it, Democrats are mostly against it. I'm a little miffed, as I thought the proposal was originally about creating jobs in a growing industry with great promise. Now, however, that part of the bill has been largely eliminated, and replaced with more mundane projects. I'm also curious about what happened to that assessment by that private firm that found the deal could seriously undermine MOHELA's financial health and ability to continue providing loans to Missouri students. This assessment drew attention to pending federal changes to the Higher Education Act, due to sunset this summer. It seems a little hasty to push this controversial proposal too hard when we don't know how the federal law might change or how those changes might impact Missouri and MOHELA.

Without the long term, lucrative jobs the biotech measures would have created, I'm not sure what Missouri has to gain, beyond the obvious brownie points politicians stand to score in districts receiving the funds. Capital improvement projects are great, but only to the extent that students can afford to attend those schools and utilitize those improvements. With the ever-increasing cost of higher education in this state and others, I'm not sure this is the best way to spend our money at this time. Ultimately we need to be careful, and should at least wait until the federal government does its job before moving forward with any proposal.

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Steven Bernstetter