• Making Access Missouri Truly Accessible

    Apr 24, 2018

    Building a quality talent base is the critical path forward for regional and statewide economic development.  In today’s competitive and global economy, much of that quality talent base requires a post-secondary education.  We have been pleased to see a number of state leaders challenge the proposed higher education cuts in Gov. Greitens’ proposed budget. In particular, we applaud Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick’s leadership in proposing a budget allocating an additional $37.6 million to our higher education institutions while proposing a $30 million dollar increase to our state’s only need-based scholarship program, Access Missouri. The proposed increase to Access Missouri is the right investment for our state at this crucial time in higher education.

    As college education costs continue to soar, aid available to support students with the greatest financial needs has declined. The St. Louis Regional Chamber’s education strategy—best captured in the St. Louis Regional Education Commitment — calls for increasing need-based aid.  Expanding the funds in Access Missouri by $30 million will help more students, particularly those with significant unmet need, pursue a post-secondary education.

    National research affirms the high impact of even small amounts of need-based aid in increasing educational attainment levels.  According to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, students who receive need-based grants are more likely to enroll and successfully complete college at a faster rate than their socioeconomic peers.  For students with the greatest need, financial aid is critical to their ability to successfully cross the finish line with their degree in hand. 

    With such a large increase to Access Missouri, we expect a larger aggregate shift in the number of people graduating with the kind of credentials that make Missouri attractive to business. These credentials also provide greater levels of earnings for individuals, thus leading to a greater tax base and more consumption of goods and services.

    After years of being underfunded and failing to keep up with the need, Rep. Fitzpatrick’s proposal is a positive step in the right direction. We hope that additional funding for Access Missouri will ensure that the average award for students increases above the current average of $1,600. We call upon his colleagues in the General Assembly to support funding that will lay a stronger foundation for building the talent base Missouri needs to compete for jobs now and in the future.

  • Missouri Can’t Afford Watered Down Computer Science Legislation

    Feb 19, 2018
    If Missouri wants to compete for the next Amazon HQ2, or attract another opportunity of that magnitude, we must integrate more computer science into our education system. Amazon would have supplied 50,000 high paying jobs for our region. However, Missouri has 10,000 open computing jobs today with an average annual salary of $82,000 that we can’t fill because we don’t have the qualified workforce.  The sad truth is, we never had a chance to win HQ2 because our tech workforce isn’t at the level it needs to be.

    The state legislature has to take thecomm first step by changing our K-12 curriculum requirements to allow high school students in Missouri the option to count computer science courses as a core math or science credit for graduation. This is a policy that 35 other states have adopted over the last few years to allow more students the opportunity to fit computer science courses into their schedule. 

    We were disappointed to see the provision allowing students to count computer science as a core graduation credit was removed from pending legislation during the House committee process. Groups testifying in favor of this provision included a wide range of business groups across the state, school administrators, school boards, teachers unions and Code.org, a national non-profit coalition that partners with Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Google and over 500 companies advocating for more exposure to computer science in education. 

    Passing legislation to get more schools to offer computer science simply isn’t enough to be competitive. The vast majority of students who choose to take computer science as an elective course are white males, which is why other states are allowing students the option to count the courses as a core graduation credit in math or science. This will result in exposing more women and minorities to computer science, opening up new worlds of possibility and transforming lives and communities.

    The House of Representatives should add this option for students back to HB 1623 if it truly wants to pass meaningful computer science legislation that will connect employers with a qualified workforce.