A bill waiting for Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s signature makes it possible for the Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit to benefit from a special state fund established just for such initiatives.
Sent to the governor during May after a 151-2 vote by the Missouri House of Representatives, Senate Bill No. 381 establishes within the state treasury the “Innovation Education Campus Fund” to be administered by the commissioner of higher education. The bill specifically notes the existing Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC) as an entity that would be eligible for such funding. It is a partnership between the University of Central Missouri,
Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Metropolitan Community College and various community organizations, businesses and industries.
The legislation enables the general assembly to appropriate money to the “Innovation Education Campus Fund” in support of participating institutions that are demonstrating through partnerships that they are actively working to lower the cost for students to complete a college degree; decreasing the time required for students to earn a degree; and providing applied and project-based learning experiences for students that leverage curriculum developed with partner Missouri businesses and industries. It also stipulates that students graduating from the innovation education campus should have direct access to internship, apprentice, part-time or full-time career opportunities with Missouri businesses that are involved in the innovation campus partnership, and that the campus engages and partners with industry stakeholders on ongoing program development and program outcomes review.
“This is a major step forward for UCM and its partners in the Missouri Innovation Campus. This legislation gives innovation campuses a real sense of identity and recognizes their value in meeting the need to graduate students with little or no debt and decrease the time it takes to complete a college degree,” said Charles Ambrose, UCM president. “We’re grateful for all of our legislators who support this bill and are helping to make this legislation possible.”
The Missouri Innovation Campus, located at the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District’s Summit Technology Academy, is the first of its kind in Missouri, and has benefitted from previous grant funding supported by Gov. Nixon. At MIC, 19 high-school juniors are currently participating in a rigorous, accelerated program that prepares them for high-demand careers and reduces their higher-education costs to almost nothing. The program began in fall 2012, giving students an opportunity to complete an associate’s degree from MCC by the summer after they finish high school, and earn a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering technology from UCM within two years after high school graduation. Throughout the students’ involvement in the four-year process, they are also participating in high-impact internships and on-the-job education thanks to the partnering businesses.
These companies enter into participation agreements with the Missouri Innovation Campus and receive grant funds from the state to help them hire the student interns. The companies then help underwrite the cost of training provided through the Innovation Campus. So far, the MIC project has received state grants totaling $1.5 million to assist with these costs. It is anticipated that students will have the opportunity to become full-time employees of the partner companies immediately following graduation.
MIC plans to launch a second degree program this fall. Student participants are being recruited this spring.