Missouri\'s higher education impacts state economy

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COLUMBIA - Rather than simply preparing students to find jobs, colleges may be able to help students create them as well. MU officials and students will give suggestions to the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE) Thursday on how to improve Missouri's state higher education. MU will host the public hearing at Memorial Union from 9:30 to 4:30 p.m.

One member who will give input is an MU graduate who created his own business. He said encouraging entrepreneurship at the college level would ultimately help the state economy.

"If they're starting and creating companies here, they're paying local taxes," Igniting Business CEO Ben Seidel said. "But they're also creating jobs."

Seidel said small business is a large part of the nation's economy.

"If you look at the job creation in Missouri, and even in the nation as a whole, a lot of those are coming from small businesses," Seidel said. "Businesses of 25 people or less."

Seidel said MU offers programs to aspiring entrepreneurs, but needs to increase awareness of the programs.

"There are a lot of opportunities that already exist and students need to be made aware of them," Seidel said. "I think the University can do a better job of saying ‘here are the opportunities that we do offer, and here's how you can get involved."

The programs MU offers have helped Seidel with his professional career.

"One of the biggest things that helped me personally was actually meeting other people in the industry," Seidel said. "I was able to bounce my ideas off of them, but even more so, I got clients out of several of them."

Video promotions, information tables and guest speakers are a few of the ways Seidel said could help increase the programs' awareness.

Seidel also understands the risks involved in creating businesses.

"There is a lot of risk that we are taking," Seidel said. "You're paying workers salaries, you're paying their hourly rate, so there's always risk associated with entrepreneurship."

The meeting will be open to public comment at 3:30 p.m. It is the fourth of nine the MDHE will hold through June.

A new higher education plan will be in place for 2016.