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Missouri announces a $125M plan for higher education, job training

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Posted at 5:11 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 18:11:13-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri officials announced a $125 million plan to help colleges and universities reopen in the fall and to train workers in the state, especially those looking to fill in-demand jobs.

Gov. Mike Parson and Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development Commissioner Zora Mulligan discussed some details of the plan Thursday during a briefing in Jefferson City.

The bulk of the grant money, which has been allocated from federal CARES Act funding, will go toward reimbursing Missouri colleges and universities for costs involved in preparing to bring students back to campus for the fall semester after being forced to shut down campuses in March and pivot to a virtual learning environment.

Missouri has earmarked $80 million for things like personal protective equipment, which colleges and universities must pay for up front before seeking reimbursement.

The money also could be used to safeguard athletic training or competition facilities.

Mulligan said it is available for use at “any facility where students, faculty and staff congregate.”

Parson also announced that $23.6 million of the $54.6 million allocated to the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund will be used for:

  • Support for libraries, laboratories and other academic facilities;
  • Support or personnel, payroll, security, health and safety, and administrative costs;
  • Students services to support mental, emotional and physical health outside the classroom.

Some of the money from the Governor’s Fund also may be used for beefing up remote learning, including hiring staff and improving infrastructure and upgrading technological needs toward that end.

Another $10 million will be available for institutions of higher education to expand remote-learning operations, focusing particularly on internet connectivity improvements.

When asked whether she supported the Trump administration’s plan to bar international students who are only taking online classes from remaining in the country, Mulligan refused to directly answer the question, calling it a “complicated issue” that “institutions are working on addressing.”

“I think that our colleges and universities are working hard to ensure that our students have access to a variety of options, including online and seated classes,” she said. “The same will be true for international students.”

However, Mulligan did urge the state’s roughly 350,000 currently enrolled in higher education not to take a year and to stick with their plans.

“Education changes lives, and that’s never been more true than it is right now,” she said.

Missouri Job Centers will receive $1 million to safely reopen facilities.

Another $9.7 million will go toward job training, including $6.7 million to help workers displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic improve or learn new skills that will strengthen Missouri’s workforce.

There will be $2 million specifically for information technology training and $1 million for the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant program, which pays tuition for adults seeking to transition to that field.

“The best way to have a more productive worker is to have them be educated and trained,” Mulligan said.

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