Student with a backpack walking near a library
A student exits the Miller Nichols Library on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus. (Zachary Linhares/The Beacon)

Expanding loan repayment programs, exempting students from hazing charges if they assist during an emergency, and making school IDs valid for voting are some of the higher education bills being proposed in the Missouri legislature. 

The next legislative session starts Jan. 4, but representatives and senators are already filing the proposed laws that they will debate during the first months of 2023. 

As of Dec. 16, the Missouri House categorized 10 bills as related to either higher education or the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, excluding duplicates that appear in both categories. The Missouri Senate indexed 13 bills in those categories, excluding duplicates. 

There’s no guarantee that any of these bills will receive an initial hearing, much less be discussed by the full House or Senate or signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson. Legislation can also be amended, sometimes dramatically, at several stages in the process. 

The Beacon has compiled a list of some of the higher education proposals that have already been filed so you can get a sense of what’s on legislators’ minds. 

Elementary and secondary education is an even more popular topic this year, with more than 100 bills filed in the legislature. Keep an eye out for roundups of K-12 education bills coming soon.

If you have strong opinions on these issues, you can contact your representative or senator.

Restricting transgender athletes from playing on teams that match their gender identity

One of the most popular education topics in both houses for the upcoming session is requiring student athletes to play on sports teams that match their gender assigned at birth. Many of the bills are branded as the Save Women’s Sports Act. 

Some versions of the proposal would require students (or the parents of minor students) to sign affidavits regarding their sex assigned at birth and would allow lawsuits against schools that break the law. For more detail, see our earlier reporting

Version of the proposal that apply to higher education include: 

  • House Bill 170, sponsored by Rep. Brian Seitz, R-Branson. 
  • Senate Bill 165, sponsored by Sen. Jill Carter, R-Joplin. 
  • Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg. The proposal would cut off state funding for universities that allow trans women to play women’s sports. 
  • Senate Bill 48, sponsored by Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, and similar to Hoskins’. 

Loan repayment programs to encourage professionals in underserved areas

Several proposals are focused on help with tuition or loan repayment to encourage new professionals to work in underserved regions or roles. 

Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, filed legislation to modify the Advantage Missouri Program to apply to teachers who work in high-need public or charter schools. Advantage Missouri provides loans and loan forgiveness for workers in high-demand areas. 

The program would provide loans of up to $7,000 per year for undergraduate students and up to $6,000 per year for graduate students pursuing teacher certification. 

The proposal is Senate Bill 107.

Legislation from Rep. Raychel Proudie, D-Ferguson, would expand an existing program that provides scholarships and loan repayment for some doctors and dentists who work in areas where there is a shortage of health care professionals. 

Her bill, HB 366, would specify that the program is for “primary care physicians, psychiatrists, general dentists, chiropractors, psychologists, professional counselors, clinical social workers, and marital and family therapists.” 

Sen. Jason Bean’s Senate Bill 141 would provide tuition reimbursement for peace officers who paid for training required to become licensed. Bean is a Republican from Holcomb. 

House Bill 403, introduced by Rep. Kent Haden, R-Mexico, expands a loan forgiveness program for veterinary students who work in underserved areas. His legislation doubles the number of students eligible for the program and increases the dollar amount per year.

Changing anti-hazing law

Legislation introduced by Rep. Travis Smith, R-Dora, would protect people from hazing-related charges if they assist a hazing victim during a medical emergency.  

Under House Bill 240, anyone who is the first person to call the police or campus security to report that someone needs emergency medical aid due to hazing, provides adequate information, stays with the person until help arrives and then cooperates with emergency responders is not guilty of hazing charges related to the incident.  

People who rendered medical assistance that they thought “in good faith” would be helpful while waiting for emergency responders would also be immune from hazing charges. 

Making school IDs valid for voting

Rep. Betsy Fogle, D-Springfield, filed House Bill 219. The legislation would add student and employee photo IDs issued by a Missouri high school, college or university to the list of acceptable forms of identification needed to vote. 

Vaccines

Other bills target vaccine and medical treatment requirements in schools. 

Senate Bill 159, sponsored by Sen. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, would prohibit schools, colleges and universities from requiring COVID-19 vaccines or gene therapy. 

Rep. Cyndi Buchheit-Courtway, R-Festus, filed House Bill 205 to prohibit any Missouri public body from requiring medical treatments that don’t have full FDA approval. There’s an exemption for public colleges and universities that have to require certain students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to receive federal funds. 

Abortion 

Moon’s Senate Bill 290 would impose a 1.9% tax on the endowment of any university affiliated with an abortion facility, offering specific fellowships or residencies that provide abortion training, or supporting a facility where abortions are performed in situations that are not life-threatening. 

The bill would go into effect at the beginning of 2024, and any institution that qualifies would be subject to the tax indefinitely, whether or not it continues its connection to abortion. 

If any institutions qualify, the top rate of tax would go down by 0.17%. 

Teaching about race and gender

As they did last year, some legislators have filed proposals to limit what concepts schools can teach about race and gender. 

At least one, House Bill 75 filed by Rep. Ann Kelley, R-Lamar, would apply to higher education. 

It forbids mandatory gender or sexual diversity training and counseling for college students and any orientation that includes sexual or racial stereotyping or bias. 

It also forbids eight teachings from being part of coursework, including:

  • That individuals are racist, sexist or oppressive, even unconsciously, by virtue of their race or sex.
  • That people can’t and shouldn’t try to “treat others without respect to race or sex.” 
  • That people bear responsibility for past actions of others of the same race or sex. 
  • That concepts such as “meritocracy” or a “strong work ethic” are racist, sexist or created to oppress members of a particular race.

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Maria Benevento is the education reporter at The Kansas City Beacon. She is a Report for America corps member. Follow her on Twitter @MariaFBenevento.