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.
Following are 2014 policies of interest and an update on what happened this legislative session.
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. Funding for Access Missouri 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.
Gov. Jay Nixon proposed an FY2015 increase of $8.6 million. The Missouri House passed a budget proposal with a proposed $20 million increase, thanks to work by Budget Committee Chair Rick Stream. The Missouri Senate passed a proposed increase of $8.6 million. At the Conference Committee, the agreed-to amount was a $15 million increase for Access Missouri! Unfortunately, decreased revenue projections in the state budget led to Gov. Nixon withholding $12 million from the Access Missouri budget.
Bright Flight Boost Proposal
A proposal before the Missouri Legislature this session purported to keep the “best and brightest” in the state by giving students who already receive the Bright Flight merit scholarship ($2,500 annually) an additional $5,000 for each year they agree to work full-time in Missouri immediately after graduation. Bright Flight is a merit-based scholarship awarded to the top 3% of ACT test-takers in Missouri. There is no data available to suggest the scholarship sets out what it intends to do: keep talented Missouri students in state after graduation. Bright Flight does not collect information on student financial need, so there is no way to know if additional funding to existing recipients (up to $7,500 per year) will be the incentive that does keep students in-state. Finally, as a forgivable loan program, Bright Flight Boost will place a significant administrative burden on the state; one that at this point has unknown scope and costs. For more information, visit MDHE's Bright Flight webpage.
Learn more about the Bright Flight Boost proposal by reading the commentary by Faith Sandler, co-chair of St. Louis Graduates, and Rev. Starsky Wilson, president of the Deaconess Foundation.
HB 1308 would have added the forgivable loan program to Bright Flight. The bill did not pass so Bright Flight remains as is.
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 graduates 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 has been incorporated into the budget passed by both the House and Senate.