Opportunities to advocate for policies that support students
St. Louis Graduates' Advocacy Committee takes positions on policy proposals that affect low-income and first-generation students. For more information on the committee's decision-making process, click here.
Missouri Department of Higher Education Blueprint for Higher Education
MDHE is in the process of developing its next coordinated plan for state higher education. The plan seeks to strengthen four components of higher education:
Students from The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis have been providing testimony at public hearings throughout Missouri to advocate for student-centered policies that promote accessibility and affordability. To provide your own comment on the plan, please send your thoughts through the MDHE public comment form.
On June 4, Karissa Anderson, Manager of Advocacy and Policy Research, and Karina Arango, policy intern, testified before the Blueprint steering committee in Cape Girardeau. Their testimony focused on the affordability gap between the cost of attendance at public institutions in Missouri and the aid available, as well as opportunities to more equitably distribute Bright Flight merit-based aid to students in low-income districts and rural communities. Click here to read their testimony.
2015 Missouri Legislative Session Policies of Interest:
Access Missouri is the state's primary need-based financial aid program. To qualify, students must, among other requirements, have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $12,000 or less. The amount of the Access Missouri award varies, based upon the number of students eligible annually and the total budget. Authorizing legislation does allow for greater awards to those with lower EFCs, although approximately half of the 50,000 Access recipients have EFCs below $500, indicating the family is unable to financially contribute to the student's education.
Funding for Access Missouri reached a high point in FY2009 at $92 million but has remained flat in recent years at about $62 million. With the economic downturn, demand for Access Missouri funding has gone up. As a result, average grant awards have shrunk to statue minimums of $1,500 for four-year colleges and $300 for two-year colleges.
In the 2014 legislative session, the General Assembly passed a $15 million increase for Access Missouri for FY2105. This was a significant and welcome accomplishment! Unfortunately, due to declining state revenues, Gov. Nixon withheld $12 million, of which $1 million in funding was restored.
The Missouri Department of Higher Education's budget proposal to Gov. Nixon requested $78.5 million for Access Missouri, essentially requesting for FY2016 the $15 million approved by the legislature in 2014 for FY2015. St. Louis Graduates supports this level of funding for FY2016 recognizing it is a step toward full funding of Access Missouri.
The FY2016 Missouri budget passed by the Legislature appropriates $68.5 million for Access.
Gov. Nixon has released $11 million of the dollars withheld from FY2015.
In-state Tuition Rate for Undocumented Students
St. Louis Graduates believes that ALL students should have the resources to pursue a postsecondary degree. This applies to students who have graduated from Missouri high schools and presently do not have citizenship status but intend to apply for it. Under no circumstances should students who have lived here since they were children and graduated from Missouri high schools be forced to pay the international student tuition rate which is the highest rate.
St. Louis Graduates supports in-state tuition rates for undocumented students who graduate from Missouri high schools and intend to file for legal status. To learn more, read a commentary written by Karina Arango, policy intern at The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis.
Unfortunately, language requiring publicly funded higher education institutions to charge undocumented students a higher out-of-state or international rate was incorporated into the budget bill passed by both the House and Senate for FY2016.
DACA Student Eligibility for A+ Funding
The A+ program originally allowed for students who are "lawfully present" to be eligible for the A+ program. As students who apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status are lawfully present, they should be eligible for the program. However, bills filed in the House and Senate would prevent this.
SB224 passed in the House and Senate. It limits the A+ Scholarship program to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
Engaging Young People in Advocacy
St. Louis Graduates believes in engaging young people in the policymaking process. Through partner organizations, St. Louis Graduates supports efforts to involve students in advocacy. The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis' policy interns are active partners in St.Louis Graduates' advocacy efforts. Click here to read an op-ed written by two of the policy interns.