Missouri Minute: UM System launches new online offering; big school districts plan in-person returns

Hello, MBA readers,

As higher education relies increasingly on virtual education, the University of Missouri System has announced an expansion of its online degree programs. The statewide university system is unifying its online options in one place and adding 22 online degree programs to the 260 already offered. The announcement comes as UM System leaders look to reach an estimated 900,000 Missourians who started college but did not finish, and as state officials try to boost the percentage of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates. As universities expand online offerings, two major school districts in the state have announced plans to return fully to in-person learning. In Springfield and Columbia, the public school districts have adopted plans to return to classrooms following spring break. Prior to the shift, both districts had been operating on a hybrid schedule with a mix of in-person and online classes. And, with the latest federal pandemic relief bill expected to be approved by the House as soon as Wednesday, Democrats have attached funding aimed at lowering the cost of health insurance for most people insured by plans purchased on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. The bill includes $34 billion in spending for the ACA and would be one the most significant changes to insurance affordability in a decade.


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University of Missouri System launches new online offering
The statewide system introduced Missouri Online, a unified resource for all its online degree programs, and announced 22 new online degrees, pushing the total above 280. System leaders expect online enrollment to surpass 10,000 by 2023. (Columbia Missourian)

Ferrellgas restructuring plan approved
A bankruptcy court has approved the Kansas City-area propane company’s plan to refinance more than $1.5 billion in debt. (Kansas City Business Journal)

TricorBraun acquires packaging distributor
The St. Louis-based packaging company has acquired Quebec-based RODA Packaging, which specializes in plastic containers and bottles. Deal terms were not disclosed. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Loop Trolley supporters seek more federal funds
Supporters of the trolley, which serves a 2.2-mile route between St. Louis and University City, want a $1.26 million grant to restart service four days per week. To date, $51 million has been spent on the project. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Historic St. Louis structure nears reopening
The Beaumont Telephone Exchange building, vacant for 25 years, is being converted into apartments and is expected to welcome tenants next month. It’s part of a larger effort to revamp the Downtown West and Midtown neighborhoods. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Made in KC to expand
The company, which operates seven cafes and shops in the Kansas City area featuring local vendors, is opening two more locations. (Kansas City Star)

Bank Star opens third full-service branch
The bank has added a location in Sunset Hills to its other branches in the St. Louis region. (St. Louis Business Journal)


Say that again

“It’s just really hard to manage because we’re already, you know, taxed at our limit. We just don’t have automated systems in place that can manage shuffling all these orders around.”

That’s third-generation Cackle Hatchery owner Jeff Smith, whose Lebanon, Missouri, business receives 300,000 eggs every week. Typically, the hatchery incubates about 1 million eggs at a time. When those eggs hatch, Smith’s business vaccinates the chicks, boxes them up and ships them off, Harvest Public Media reports. However, freezing temperatures toward the end of February delayed more than 4,000 shipments of the mail-order chickens. The orders were delayed as a result of a temporary embargo by the United States Postal Service on all shipments of live animals, which the service enacted to protect animals from dying in transit.


Go figure

$34 billion

Congressional Democrats attached $34 billion in spending to the pandemic relief package to strengthen the Affordable Care Act. The funds aim to help low- and middle-income Americans who purchased insurance on the marketplaces created by the ACA but didn’t meet the eligibility requirements for ACA assistance. Most of the 14 million people enrolled in marketplace plans would see a reduction in costs if the bill passes, with the savings allowing them to then buy plans with lower deductibles.


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Springfield Public Schools announced plans to shift to a five-day in-person schedule effective March 22, when students return from spring break. The district has been operating on a hybrid schedule in response to COVID-19, the Springfield News-Leader reports. Springfield isn’t the only major district in the state making such a shift. Columbia Public Schools is adopting a similar plan on April 5, following the district’s spring break. The Columbia School Board approved the move in a unanimous vote Monday night, the Columbia Missourian reports.


Hello, my name is

Hawaiian Bros Island Grill

The Kansas City-based restaurant chain has announced plans to open more than 20 new locations this year. Seven locations are slated for the Kansas City metro area, and the others will open in Texas, WDAF reports. Founded in 2018, the restaurant serves a variety of Hawaiian-inspired dishes, most notably the “Hawaiian plate lunch,” which consists of grilled meat, rice and macaroni salad. The planned expansion is the culmination of Hawaiian Bros President Scott Ford’s desire to make the brand a national chain that can continue to open dozens of locations per year. The largest financial shareholder in the company is Worcester Investments, a Kansas City-based real estate investment firm


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