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Governor Announces Proposal to Sell MOHELA

During a stop at Missouri State University, Governor Matt Blunt unveiled his proposal to sell the state's non-profit student loan underwriting agency to a for profit company. KSMU's Mike Smith reports on the governor's announcement and KSMU's Missy Shelton has reaction to the plan from state senators.

Smith: Governor blunt visited four cities Thursday, January 26th, including Springfield, presenting his plan to sell Missouri's 25-year-old student loan agency.

Sale of the nonprofit Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority—known as MOHELA—could reap 400-million dollars. The governor wants to put that money into college buildings, professorships and scholarships.

Blunt calls his plan the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative. He offered details Thursday during stops in Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis.

Word that the majority of the sales' estimated profits of 425 million dollars is welcome news to university administrators around the state.

University of Missouri President Elson Floyd said the sale would mark the start of a new era for higher education in Missouri.

System-wide the University of Missouri would receive 141 million dollars for its campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla.

Missouri State University would receive 36.7 million dollars.

Seven million would be used for the Life Sciences Incubator at the Jordan Valley Innovation Center. The facility would house companies recruited and spun off from university research.

29.7 million would go toward the renovation of several buildings on the Springfield, West Plains and Mountain Grove campuses.

Missouri State University President Michael Nietzel says that's significant because it protects and enhances existing investments the state has made in the institution.

Meanwhile, as the governor flew around the state to promote the sale of MOHELA, senators discussed it on the floor of the senate before leaving Jefferson City for the weekend.

KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

Shelton: Governor Matt Blunt's proposal calls for a competitive bid process to find a company to buy MOHELA, the state's non profit agency that underwrites student loans.

Funds from the sale of MOLHELA would provide a one-time infusion of cash...The governor proposes spending 300 million dollars on capitol improvements at state universities, 100 million dollars on scholarships, and 20 million dollars for endowed professorships.

Most of the capitol projects related to healthcare or the life sciences.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Charlie Shields says the capitol improvement projects will create new economic development.

But some senators say selling MOHELA will hurt students in the long run for a short term gain in capitol improvements.

Democratic Senator Pat Dougherty says he fears a for profit company won't offer benefits that MOHELA offers.

But several senators say they're interested in giving the governor's proposal a fair hearing.

Republican Senator Gary Nodler of Joplin says he looks forward to exploring the options.

A number of lawmakers, both senators and representatives say they're not ready to make a decision on the proposal.

Republican Senator John Loudon, who's running for Auditor, says he hasn't made up his mind...and he says he has questions about the impact of selling MOHELA.

It's not just lawmakers who are considering the governor's proposal.

The Missouri Bankers Association is polling its members to see how they feel about this proposal.