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Truman provides example on education debate


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has lead the charge for higher education reform, specifically asking public University presidents to present detailed information – graduation rates, student loan default rates, and student retention rates. Schaefer also wants to find out how tax dollars are spent at the University in order to trim the administrative fat and commit more money to the classroom.

“Those are all very appropriate things to looks at,” Truman State University President Troy Paino said.

Paino represented Truman State for the university’s day at the capitol on Tuesday. He feels this way because his institution has been looking at all of those measures to evaluate their educational process. The institution also evaluates students and teachers. Truman has already downsized it’s administrative staff.

“We’re lean and mean,” Paino said.

The result, over more than 20 years after changing the University’s mission, is that Truman has been recognized as the No. 1 public university for 17 consecutive years in U.S. News and World Report’s Midwest Regional University category and listed as a best value school by the Princeton Review.

“These are outside people saying this,” Truman Director of Public Relations Heidi Templeton said.

Truman reports that it has a 97 percent acceptance rate into law schools and a 70 percent acceptance rate into medical schools. With about 6,000 students, the average ACT score for Truman students is a 27.

Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis
Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis

Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, attended, then, Northeast Missouri State when the University changed its mission. The University went from a regional college meant to provide local students with access to all types of education to a statewide institution. This meant conducting advertising and recruiting campaigns in places like Kansas City, where Northeast Missouri State did not reach. More importantly, the university focused its curriculum from 140 courses to 40. Now Truman has a niche as the only public liberal arts and sciences school in the state.

At the time, Colona opposed the change. He even remembers debating University President Charles McClain.

“Just give it time,” McClain said. “This transition can provide a wonderful resource for the citizens of Missouri.”

Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St.Louis attended the University when it changed names, eventually graduating in 1997. He said the transition was strange but the name clearly reflects the school’s state and nationwide appeal.

“It is ranked in the top 10 best value with schools like Michigan and William and Mary,” Schmitt said. “It’s an asset to have an instate school that competes for students nationally.”

Now, Colona could not be more proud of his alma mater. He is one of five General Assembly Members who received a degree from the school, along with Senators Schmitt, Scott Sifton, D-Affton, and Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville, and Rep. Ed Schieffer, D-Troy. He attributes getting into politics to the internship program he participated in at the capitol. He said the current Truman interns are some of the most coveted among legislators.

“Every year legislators scramble to try to get Truman interns,” Colona said. “It’s my sixth year; I‘ve had interns from al the different schools.”

Colona is going as far to say that the lessons learned from Truman’s mission change can be applied to fix secondary education.

“We can learn from their experience,” Colona said. “Remember, I’m a democrat saying this.”