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On Thursday Governor Jay Nixon (D) visited the School of Nursing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City for the launch of Caring for Missourians, a new program that “will train more than nine hundred additional Missouri students to enter high-demand, critical-need health care fields.”

Our previous coverage: Governor Jay Nixon (D): “Caring for Missourians” at the School of Nursing, UMKC

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) at the School of Nursing at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.

After Governor Nixon’s announcement statement there was an opportunity for the media to ask the Governor questions:

Governor Jay Nixon: …That being said, I’ll take your questions, the press [garbled].

Michael Mahoney, KMBC: Governor, one of the big problems you’re not addressing with this is the fact that in many small Missouri towns, as you well know, hospitals are probably the main employer and they don’t have the resources to hire anybody else. Nurses, doctors, or anything. How do you address that?

Governor Nixon: The demand for these jobs is out there.  Clearly [crosstalk]…

Michael Mahoney:  Is it? [crosstalk]

Governor Nixon: …and obviously [crosstalk]…

Michael Mahoney: But they don’t have the money for it. [crosstalk]

Governor Nixon: …obviously this year I would have wished that the, that the legislature would have gone ahead with our expansion of health care that we laid out at no cost to Missouri taxpayers that would have put a hundred fifty million in additional dollars in.

We think the jobs are there. We know, I know that jobs are going unfilled now. And that, that, that has been told to me direct straight up by administrator after administrator in hospitals and clinics across the state…

…Sure we need to do more for health care. But if we don’t have the basic backbone of professional services, trained workers, we will never be able to, to move forward in health care. And making sure we have this base done now is vitally important. I also think, not only at the state level, our efforts in health care are far from complete, but also at the national level. We sit here today on the precipice of a national debate about where we’re goin’ on health care. That is clearly gonna move this state and this country forward. Wherever that process ends in the coming months in Washington it will clearly expand access to health care, provide additional resources. We want to be the best positioned state in the country to have trained workers to provide those services. This provision will help us do that.

Michael Mahoney: Does this legislation have, have any requirement that the nurses, the dentists, the dental hygienists, all these people that are gonna benefit from the, this program will have to stay in Missouri and begin their, at least begin their careers here?

Governor Nixon:  No, it doesn’t. We, we want Missouri, we would like for ’em to, and every student I’ve seen here, as I’ve shook their hand, most of them who’ve been traveling with me here today, I’ve asked them to, to make sure and stay in Missouri if they can. But, ultimately, I think what we want is a, is a, is a magnet for education here. I mean, we’re talkin’ about building excellence. I mean, I don’t think we should be afraid to have students coming in from other parts of the country. To come and get the best education they can get in America right here in Kansas City.  So, this is not merely a, a program to just solve Missouri’s needs this is a, this is a definition of excellence that, that we want to have so that those, the higher education, especially in the health care area here at UMKC begins to get in broader recognition across the country as to the quality of that. That will help the Chancellor, Deans, and others attract other private funding, attract other ways that we can, we can move this forward. And so consequently, no, there is not a requirement that, that this be one for one right into our communities. We obviously, there’s a much better chance folks that come to school here working in Missouri than there are if they’re in school in Colorado or in California or somewhere else. Clearly. But as far as requiring it, requiring to do it, no, we didn’t. I think our goal here is to raise the bar, to, to shine this, this apple, not, not merely to, to service just the State of Missouri.

Question: Are there any incentives to going to work in these rural places? That’s part of the problem, too, is, is you graduate and you want to go to Chicago, you want to go to St. Louis. People don’t want to go to these places.

Governor Nixon:  Well one of the things that the institutions are helping us on is outreach into these communities for students. And I thought it was interesting to hear, hear the Dean talk about this. I mean, these students that they’re turning away come from Missouri towns. I mean, when you, when you, you’re much more likely to go back to your area. All the studies clearly show if someone is, is from Sedalia or Warrensburg or Joplin they’re much more likely to go back to those communities to practice or to work. And so recruiting, and that’s one of the things they’ve committed in this program, the university system, as well as our two year and four year institutions, is to beef up their recruitment of their students where the need is the greatest. That will increase the likelihood, plus we’re gonna work on the back side with those communities, to put programs together for loan forgiveness, for assisting them in, in transitioning to a professional career. Those projects are not done yet, but when we beef up the education part of this and we recruit heavily students from those areas we are convinced that that will help us on the back side getting much higher percentage of those students returning to those communities where they’re needed.

Question: The money that’s appropriated, to these different schools, is that gonna go strictly for facilities and classrooms, or is there gonna be any money available for scholarships or anything like that for students?

Governor Nixon:  This is the education side of it. And this, this money goes to the institutions, not, not for the, the scholarship part, although I, I would say that I think that higher education institutions this year with the historic agreement we were able to reach that said this year which we would not raise tuition, we would not raise academic fees, you know there’s, you know, I, I just looking at the Kansas City Star last weekend we saw on the front page there that Kansas is in the middle of trying to negotiate raising tuition for all their students six point five per cent. I, as a Missouri Tiger it was good to see a Jayhawk and “raising tuition” on the front page of the paper compared to a Tiger and tuition staying the same.  The point I make is, that the higher education institutions, I have found, one of our shared principles is to, is to keep the cost down for students as best we can. The only way to really do that is to provide the support for higher education so that they don’t have to shift across. And that’s what this, this is beginning to do right, right here. No, this doesn’t contain scholarships. No, this doesn’t. But, here in Missouri, for this year, we have frozen tuition, with frozen academic fee increases.  Colleges and, and institutions have joined with me in that. And, and because of that, one reason, we’re able now to find the resources to expand some of these programs. And this is just, I, I point out, and I know it’s a long answer to a short question, sorry about that, but I. This is just the beginning. I mean, we’re, we’re in a transitionary time in which we make th
e connector in our economy, between education, especially higher education, and our economy. I mean, we look back on this in a few years and we see that we’re attracting students from all over the place, when every student who graduates from this nursing school goes directly to a job, when every pharmacist goes directly to a job, we will have made the, the inter-coupling connection between education and economy as tight as you can do it. And I think this is a great place for Missouri to launch this program and, and I look forward to working with the Chancellor, the nursing school, the pharmacy school, the med school, the dental school and all those to continue to expand this opportunity. While at the same time not forgetting the question you asked, how do we help students not graduate with just a huge load of debt? How, how do we help them from, from getting out of here and having, you know, a hundred thousand dollars they owe, so that the first thing they do with the dollar they make? You know, we made a hard push this year and we got to it, one point to both the House and Senate, my, my Missouri Promise, which would have been a pathway to a four year undergraduate degree debt free. Disappointed it was left out of the education bill. But, best I can tell, the Constitution requires the legislature come back again next year. And I will be there, too.

One more quick question.

Question: With a lot of this money being [garbled] one time use and with universities and places [garbled] some of the other issues, what’s the reaction as you’ve visited other places with how this program is gonna be realistically.

Governor Nixon:  Well, first of all, all funding from the state is one time. The legislature meets every year. They do the budget every year. So, I mean, those that’ve said it’s one time, I mean, everything is one time. The legislature could, could, and, you know, could vote not to do a lot of things that they’ve done in the past. I mean, I could, I could, I have a constitutional power to, to limit budgets in, in a way that I think is appropriate.

So, what we see this as a building block. We see this as a test, it, and, and if we perform in, in a way that I know this institution and its affiliated health organizations do, I think we will have a very strong case to continue to move, move forward with this, this next year.

So, we’ve had a very good response from folks across the state. This is one of those rare agreements in which every public four year institution in the State of Missouri and every two year institution, public institution, in the State of Missouri higher education is in the game. And, and we will look forward to developing the metrics that can prove, to these members of the legislature and to the public, that these are dollars well spent., that these are, that this is investment that’s paying off, and when we do I’m confident that we’ll be able to continue the funds.

Thank, I, I want to, my last thank you here is not, is not to the press or to the folks in the suits or the Deans or anybody else like that.  But my last thank you, real quickly here, is, is to the incredible students that are here in this institution. The one thing that we haven’t talked about here, because it’s a given, that we shouldn’t ever forget, is the quality of the students and the quality of the education here. This is ground zero for the beginning of us moving forward. But that’s not possible without high quality students being committed to a very competitive degree. This is not easy work. Nursing students, pharmacy students, medical students, dental students compete like crazy to get here and once they’re here, compete like crazy to get their degree. This is a very rigorous program. And as Governor of the State of Missouri, I thank you all for setting health care as your career and look forward to having you take care of the citizens of Missouri in the next few years.

Thank you very much. [applause]