Last Wednesday’s St Louis Dispatch, in Bills have been filed to change Access Missouri scholarships, reported the Missouri General Assembly filing of two bills designed to change how state scholarship money is distributed through the Access Missouri program.
Since the first of the year, articles in the Kansas City Star (Woe for colleges forecast-January 30 – Missouri colleges are told to prepare for deep budget cuts-February 19), (Missouri College aid program is working, should be kept intact-March 1), and one from Post-Dispatch Jefferson City Bureau (Split of scholarship pot discussed-February 18) have discussed shortage-of-funds concerns and changes to a successful scholarship program.
With a two-year tap of federal stimulus money running dry, Missouri’s higher education commissioner has warned of coming revenue gaps and has suggested that:
- State campuses could close or be forced to go private
- Some schools could become branches of larger ones
- Non-graduating students who got state financial aid could be required to pay it back
- Class sizes could soar
- Shared academic programs and services between schools will be necessary
- Athletic programs could get the ax
Faced with the possibility of such choices, it is no wonder everything is being laid on the table regarding state dollars flowing to Missouri colleges and universities. The bills seeking changes to Access Missouri scholarship distribution are part of the debate.
The bills, SB 390 by Sen. Kurt Shaefer, R-Columbia, and the House companion bill HB 792 by Gayle Kingery, R-Poplar Bluff, propose decreasing maximum individual student awards for those attending four-year independent institutions and raising it for those at four-year publics.
In the March 1 Kansas City Star “As I See it” column, Avila University President Ronald A. Slepitza described how the Access Missouri program was developed by a committee of public and private, two- and four- year financial aid professionals selected by their peers and working under the direction of the Missouri Department of Higher Education. This task force set aside institutional interests and created a single, need-based program that accomplished three goals: 1. Portability so awards follow students between institutions 2. Similarity in percentage of tuition and fees covered by maximum award amounts at either institution type 3. A program easily understood by students, families, and financial aid offices.
Slepitza is also Vice Chair of Independent Colleges and Universities of Missouri, and, along with colleagues, shares thoughts through the Missouri Independent Colleges and Universities Coalition. [As reported on The Grade, an STLtoday.com education blog]: Students who choose an independent college in Missouri are a good taxpayer investment. They are more likely to receive their bachelor’s degree in four years and enter the workforce than those attending public institution, thus avoiding a fifth or sixth year of college costs to them and to the state. The cost to the state to accommodate all of the students currently enrolled in the independent sector – using the average operational state appropriation to four-year institutions – would exceed $700 million, to say nothing of the capital costs that would be involved.
“Education is vital to advancing Missouri’s economy, creating jobs and preparing students for a globally competitive workplace. We in independent colleges and universities substantially contribute to this goal at a fraction of the cost to state residents,” says Slepitza.
Bullet points about Access Missouri and the General Assembly proposals are presented in a companion beepwire.com article: Access Missouri-what has been said.