Opportunities to advocate for policies that support students with financial need
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.
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. 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 requests $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.
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 NOT provide in-state tuition rates to undocumented students was incorporated into the budget bill passed by both the House and Senate for FY2015. St. Louis Graduates will advocate against such language in the coming year.
DACA Student Eligibility for A+ Funding
As currently written, the rules related to the A+ scholarship program indicate students meeting eligibility criteria must be lawfully present in the U.S. Students who are living in Missouri and have applied for and received DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) have temporary legal status and therefore should be eligible for A+. The Missouri Department of Higher Education proposed a rules change to clarify this and St. Louis Graduates joined other organizations across the state in supporting this rules change. To read St. Louis Graduates letter of support, click here.
HB187 filed by Rep. Fitzpatrick requires students receiving a postsecondary education public benefit have U.S. citizenship or lawful status. St. Louis Graduates opposes HB187.