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March 11, 2010 Volume 31, No. 23

Forsee urges state support for math, science education

slipping behind

Forsee: ‘Missouri can and should do better’

University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee has urged legislators to raise Missouri’s failing national grade in science, technology, engineering and math education by supporting a new initiative that would bolster K-12 and college education in these areas.

Testifying on March 3 before the Senate Education Committee, Forsee said Missouri ranks near the bottom of all states in the proportion of science and engineering degrees awarded. Moreover, math skills for Missouri’s fourth graders rank in the bottom third nationally, and scores of eighth-graders have declined in national assessments, ranking Missouri below 34 other states.

“It is not acceptable that Missouri — and the country — continue to slip further and further behind other countries in the science, technology, engineering and math fields,” said Forsee, who received his engineering degree from Missouri University of Science and Technology. “It will be a shame if we let this trend continue. Missouri can and should do better.”

The proposed new legislation, SB936, would provide state matching funds to help public higher education institutions. Forsee cited the University of Missouri’s proven track record in other matching fund programs. He noted an endowment of more than $105 million raised to support 110 endowed chairs and professorships — “a solid return on the state’s $5 million annual investment in this program.”

He also cited public higher education’s ability to work collaboratively on issues affecting all Missourians. As an example, the Caring for Missourians initiative is increasing the output of graduates at all public four- and two-year colleges and universities to help meet shortages in health care fields.

Under the proposed legislation, public higher education institutions could:

  • Hire additional teaching faculty whose primary focus would be teaching undergraduates in science, technology, engineering or mathematical fields, ensuring Missouri has the best teachers in classrooms and allowing for increased student enrollment in these areas;
  • Provide funds for scholarship matches or loan forgiveness for students who study in these fields or who plan to teach in these areas;
  • Support and increase the number of pre-college youth programs that would bring K-12 students to college and university campuses to learn more about technological fields;
  • Support programs that enhance the quality of teaching at the K-12 level; and
  • Provide support to update and modernize laboratory equipment.

The Senate Education Committee’s hearing came during Math, Engineering, Technology and Science Week in Missouri.