Missouri’s higher education commissioner, Robert Stein, announced in November that he was going to retire in July. And so the state earnestly began a search for his successor. The Missouri Department of Higher Education even posted the job advertisement for the position right on its Web site.

And then it stopped the search. The governor wants to eliminate the position and, in fact, the
entire department the commissioner is supposed to oversee. According to an article by Tim Barker in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Facing the prospect of being merged out of existence, Missouri’s Department of Higher Education has halted its search for a new commissioner.

Department spokeswoman Kathy Love said the board held a first round of interviews Monday but decided to slow down because of Gov. Jay Nixon’s recent proposal to merge the small Department of Higher Education with the much larger Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. They would create a single Department of Education.

Governor Nixon’s plan to eliminate the department is part of his general attempt to reduce the size of his government, necessary due to Missouri’s budget crisis. Nixon also plans to cut 1,000 state jobs because, as he says, “to get the savings that we need, we must right-size our government.” (Whatever that means.)

Missouri is not the first state to consider a move like this. In January a South Carolina legislator proposed eliminating the state higher education commission to save money. In a less dramatic move, Rhode Island managed to save a few hundred thousand dollars by eliminating a higher education oversight position through questionable hiring.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer