State of Mississippi Legislative Updates for Universities and Colleges

2014

 

SB 2499. Effective 7/1/14. Signed 5/1/14.

Senate Bill 2499 amends, creates and consolidates several provisions of law related to the state's student financial aid program.

 

GENERAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE AMENDMENTS

The bill makes the following general changes to the provisions of law related to those programs:

  • Renames loan programs as "forgivable loan" programs;
  • Removes loan to scholarship conversion terms from individual programs and replaces with a cross-reference to the newly established uniform repayment section;
  • Transfers the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning's (IHL) authority to administer student financial aid programs to the Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Board (PEFAB).

Section 2 amends Section 37-106-5 to revise the of "eligible applicant," define "renewal applicant," "resident,"and "dependent" and delete the definition of "fund."

Section 3 amends Section 37-106-9 to expand the of the Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Board (PEFAB) from three members to nine members and two nonvoting advisory members. The IHL, the Mississippi Community College Board and the Governor will each appoint one additional member. The amendment adds two appointments by the Mississippi Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and one appointment by the Lieutenant Governor. The chairpersons of the House and Senate Universities and Colleges Committees will serve as nonvoting advisory members. IHL maintains the authority to designate a staff member as director of financial aid programs. But the director need only have the PEFAB's approval to promulgate rules rather than the approval of the PEFAB and IHL.

Section 4 authorizes the board to sue for amounts owed on uncompleted contracts without the assistance of the Attorney General's office. It also amends the information to be included in the annual report filed for student financial aid.

Section 5 creates new Section 37-106-12 to establish the Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Trust Fund.

Section 6 creates Section 37-106-14 to establish the priority of funding for student financial aid awards.

Sections 7-9 make technical amendments to Sections 37-106-17 through 37-106-21. These amendments state that a student must apply for financial assistance yearly and that students who receive forgivable loans must enter into contracts with the board. Only the director and the student must sign the contract. Finally, the amendments authorize electronic payments by the State Treasurer.

Section 22 establishes a uniform conversion and repayment terms for all forgivable loan programs unless a particular program provides otherwise. The new Section 37-106-53 allows forgivable loan recipients to convert the loan to interest-free scholarships through service or to repay the loan principal and interest with a penalty. Students' loans may be converted to scholarships on the basis of one year's full-time service for one year's loan amount. Students must provide at least one year of service when repaying through this option. The loans of students who opt to repay rather than enter service, who abandon service or who fail to complete a program of study must repay principal and interest plus a penalty of five percent on that combined amount.

 

SCHOLARSHIP AND GRANT PROGRAMS

Sections 11 and 12 amend the Mississippi Resident Tuition

Assistance Grant Program and the Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant Program (MESG) to remove the list of approved schools at which a student must attend to receive financial assistance from these programs. Instead, the PEFAB will approve the eligible schools. Also, the MESG is amended to require students to have completed no more than 36 hours at an out-of-state institution of higher learning to maintain eligibility for assistance under the program.

Current law provides for the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters Scholarship in Sections 37-107-1 through 37-107-9. Section 34 of the bill repeals these sections, and Section 16 reestablishes this scholarship in Section 37-106-39 with two changes. First, the scholarship now has a maintenance grade point average of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. Also, applicants must provide proof of disability or death of the law enforcement officer or firefighter when applying for the scholarship.

Current law provides scholarships for children of certain Armed Forces members in Sections 37-108-1 through 37-108-5. Section 35 of the bill repeals these sections, and Section 17 reestablishes this scholarship in Section 37-106-41. This scholarship will now be administered by PEFAB rather than IHL.

Current law provides for the Mississippi Public Management Graduate Intern Program in Sections 37-110-1 through 37-110-11. Section 36 of the bill repeals these sections, and Section 18 reestablishes this internship program in Section 37-106-43. This internship program will now be administered by PEFAB rather than IHL.

Sections 33 and 28 of the bill reestablish two additional grant programs that are in current law. The Higher Education Legislative Plan Grant Program (HELP) is moved to new Section 37-106-75 and includes scheduled increases in the annual gross income required to receive assistance under the program. The program that provides assistance to residents to attend certain out-of-state graduate and professional schools is moved to new Section 37-106-65.

 

MISSISSIPPI TEACHER SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMS

Current law in Sections 37-159-1 through 37-159-17 provides for the Critical Needs Teacher Scholarship Program, which is administered by IHL and the State Board of Education. Section 39 repeals the main portion of this program, but it is reestablished as a forgivable loan program in Section 23 with several changes. Beginning in the 2014-2015 academic year, no students will be enrolled in the program. The PEFAB will administer the program until it is completely phased out in July 1, 2020. Sections 46-52 of the bill amend the other sections for the program to add a repeal date of July 1, 2020.

Current law in Sections 37-159-51 and 37-159-53 establishes the Mississippi Dyslexia Education Scholarship Program, which is administered by IHL. Section 40 repeals this program, but it is reestablished as a forgivable loan program in Section 31 as new Section 37-106-71. The program will be administered by PEFAB.

Sections 44 and 45 establish two new teacher scholarship programs -- the Teaching Fellows Program and the Teacher Education Alternate Route Certification Scholars Program. Both will be administered by PEFAB in conjunction with the State Board of Education.

 

OMNIBUS SCHOLARSHIP ACT OF 1991

Current law in Sections 37-143-1 through 37-143-21 establishes the Omnibus Loan or Scholarship Act of 1991, which authorizes IHL to administer several loan and scholarship programs. Section 37 of this bill repeals that act. Except for former Sections 37-143-1 and 37-143-6, this bill reestablishes those programs under PEFAB's authority as follows:

  • Section 1 amends Section 37-106-3 to incorporate the legislative findings from Section 37-143-3 of the Omnibus Loan or Scholarship Act of 1991 with the legislative findings from the Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Law of 1975.
  • Section 26 reestablishes the medical forgivable loan program from former Section 37-143-5 in Section 37-106-61.
  • Section 27 reestablishes the dental forgivable loan program from former Section 37-143-7 in Section 37-106-63.
  • Section 25 reestablishes the advanced study in nursing forgivable loan program from former Section 37-143-9 in Section 37-106-59.
  • Section 24 reestablishes the William F. Winter Teacher Forgivable Loan Program from former Section 37-143-11 in Section 37-106-57.
  • Section 32 reestablishes the Speech Language Pathologists forgivable loan program from former Section 37-143-12 in Section 37-106-73.
  • Section 29 reestablishes the health care professions forgivable loan program from former Section 37-143-13 in Section 37-106-67.
  • Section 30 reestablishes the family protection workers forgivable loan program from former Section 37-143-14 in Section 37-106-69.
  • Sections 19 through 21 transfer IHL's authority related to these programs from Sections 37-143-15 through 37-143-21 to the PEFAB in new Sections 37-106-47 through 37-106-51 except that PEFAB will not have the authority to create similar loan or scholarship programs.

SB 2563. Effective 7/1/14. Signed 3/13/14.

This bill requires the Commissioner of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Community College Board and the presidents of state universities and community and junior colleges to develop a plan of action to address the prevention of unintended and unmarried pregnancies among older teens. The plan must be filed with the Legislature by November 3, 2014.

SB 2681. Effective 7/1/14. Signed 4/3/14.

Senate Bill 2681 enacts the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act and amends the official seal of the state.

Section 1 of the bill provides that as a general rule, no state action shall substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability. But the state may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion if it demonstrates that the application of the burden to the person furthers a compelling governmental interest and uses the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.

Section 2 adds the phrase "In God We Trust" to the official seal of the state.

Section 3 provides that any item with the seal as it existed before the effective date of the act will not be changed unless the item is depleted (e.g., stationery, business cards), replacement is required due to normal wear or nonpublic funds will be used for the replacement.

HB 116. Effective 7/1/14. Signed 3/19/14.

This bill exempts documents, records, papers, data, protocols, information or materials in the possession of a community college or state institution of higher learning that are created, collected, developed, generated, ascertained or discovered during the course of academic research from the provisions of the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983. However, this exemption does not apply to a public record that has been published, copyrighted, trademarked or patented.

The bill exempts unpublished manuscripts, preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific or academic papers, plans or proposals for future research and prepublication peer reviews in the possession of a community college or state institution of higher learning, or submitted and accepted for publication by publishers from the provisions of the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983.

The bill further provides that nothing in Section 37-11-51, including the provisions described above, shall otherwise create a public record right over, or shall impede or infringe upon, the copyright in any work.

HB 426. Effective 7/1/14. Signed 3/19/14.

This bill defines the term "High School Equivalency Diploma" as a high school diploma that has been approved by the Mississippi Community College Board. The bill revises the references in law to the General Educational Development (GED) to High School Equivalency Diploma.

HB 433. Effective on passage. Signed 4/15/14.

This bill requires the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning and the local board of trustees of a community or junior college to adopt rules and regulations for institutions under their governance for the waiver of certification that goods or services have been received or performed. These rules and regulations shall be consistent with those already established by the Department of Finance and Administration regarding waivers.

HB 460. Effective 7/1/14. Signed 3/19/14.

This bill revises all references in law to "Junior College Commission" and "State Board for Community and Junior Colleges" to "Mississippi Community College Board."