The Foundation advocates at school, state, and federal levels with, and in support of, students who need significant financial support to complete their degrees. Founded upon the conviction that an educated society is essential to democracy, The Scholarship Foundation is committed to policy and systems change that will address inequity within higher education on the basis of race, class, and immigration status.
League of Student Advocates
Formerly the Active Advocacy Coalition, the League of Student Advocates (the League) is a bi-state collective of students working toward equity in higher education. The League believes that low-income, first-generation, and undocumented students have the potential, ability, and right to pursue higher education and that students must be in the center of policy decisions regarding higher education. League members gather at least annually to set an agenda for the year, train and organize, and travel to the Missouri state capital. If you are or know a student interested in higher education policy and advocacy, please contact us.
Missouri State Legislative Priorities
Charge In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students
The League urges all members of the legislature to oppose any attempts to insert language regarding citizenship or immigration status into the higher education budget bill. Each year, students in Missouri graduate from high school with the intention to enroll in, attend, and graduate from college. For some Missouri students, these dreams are cruelly out of reach. In the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 legislative sessions, language was added to the preamble of the higher education budget that states that undocumented students are to be charged out-of-state or international tuition rates. In the 2019 legislative session, the language was briefly removed, only to be quickly returned. Despite having grown up in the United States, and attending and graduating from K-12 Missouri schools, Missouri students are being charged an unfairly inflated rate of tuition at public institutions of higher education.
Increase Access Missouri
Access Missouri is the state’s only need-based scholarship program, now serving over 40,000 students. The state’s largest financial aid program, Access Missouri has been consistently underfunded. Over time, student awards remained flat, and current awards fall far short of the statutory maximum of $2,850. The total budget for the program has declined from $92 million in 2009 to $62 million just last year. Investing in Access Missouri is an investment in students with proven financial need. Students with significant financial need may not be able to afford to attend college without state aid. Missouri’s scholarship dollars are limited and should be prioritized towards students who truly need them.
Reform the A+ Scholarship to Support Low-Income Students
At present, the A+ Scholarship is constructed so that students must spend their federal Pell Grant first, preventing Missouri’s lowest-income students from utilizing the A+ dollars they earned. Because there is no income or financial need consideration in the awarding of the scholarship, students from families earning well over $100,000 annually are using the A+ scholarship to go to school for free. Making A+ a first-dollar scholarship and adding an income/need requirement on the awards will enable the state’s low-income students to receive the “free community college” benefit they earned and enable them to save their Pell Grant funds for a four-year degree.
Defer Increases to the Bright Flight Program
Bright Flight disproportionately benefits students attending schools in suburban and wealthy, urban schools. By utilizing a single measure, ACT and SAT scores, Bright Flight’s selection criteria overlook promising students from low-income and lesser-resourced rural and urban districts. Missouri’s average ACT score is 21.5, yet this scholarship requires a 31 or above.
Reject Efforts to Make FAFSA Completion a High School Graduation Requirement
FAFSA completion is not relevant to and should not be required for a high school diploma. The League urges the legislature to oppose HB 1349. Requiring FAFSA completion (or parental waiver) for high school graduation may have a wide variety of likely unintended consequences:
- Reducing Missouri’s commendable high school graduation rate;
- Violating the letter or spirit of the law that requires that K-12 public schooling be provided regardless of citizenship status (and prohibiting districts from requiring or collecting citizenship information); and,
- Further jeopardizing the future of young people whose parents are uncooperative or whose whereabouts are unknown (and who are already vulnerable financially and emotionally).
Federal Legislative Priorities
Boost Pell Grant Funding: Indexing and Keeping Dollars Where They’re Needed
The Pell Grant enables hundreds of thousands of low-income students to afford college each year. During the 2018-2019 year, 123, 581 Missouri students received a Pell Grant, more students than any other federal financial aid grant program. However, the Pell Grant has significantly lost its spending power over time. To prevent further decline in spending power, policymakers should:
- Direct that carryover funds be applied to increase grant awards for the subsequent year;
- Index the Pell award to inflation in any legislation proposed as part of the re-authorization of the Higher Education Act; and,
- Fund the Pell Grant with mandatory, not discretionary, funding.
Preserve Campus-Based Aid: Work-Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)
Work-study gives students the opportunity to work part-time to cover college costs. SEOG provides a supplemental grant to Pell recipients with the highest financial need. Campus-based federal aid programs such as these prove to be an important piece of the puzzle students cobble together to finance their education. To ensure these dollars are extended where they’re most needed, policymakers should:
- Distribute Federal Work-Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) funds to campuses with the highest concentration of low-income students; and,
- Increase funding to both Federal Work-Study and SEOG.
Assure Passage of a Clean Dream Act
Congress must act swiftly to assure passage of a clean DREAM Act in order to protect undocumented young people from deportation and provide an opportunity for continued education and work permits. A conservative estimate of the individuals in Missouri attending school or working with approval under DACA is 3,500. It is critical that we protect them.
Campus Policy Priorities
The League is currently developing its campus policy priorities. Details to come soon!
The Foundation’s Student-Led Advocacy Programs consists of four paid fellowships in different, but related content areas. This hands-on fellowship program, made possible through the generous support of Deaconess Foundation and the Equifax Foundation, consists of fellowships advocating at the federal, state, and institutional policy level to increase college access and affordability. Fellows are equipped with the resources, training, and context to advance a student-led agenda for higher education in Missouri. Students will be able to learn how historical, financial, and systems issues have impacted college accessibility and then explore campaigns that seek to get closer to equity in higher education. Fellows are trained by expert leaders in policy, advocacy, campaign building, race and racism in education, and much more. The overall goal is to ensure students who are primarily left out of these types of discussions are not only included in them, but able to lead them.
- Campus Policy Fellows expand the League of Student advocates by building relationships with student organizations, recruiting and training new members, and working with campus leadership on the LSA’s policy priorities.
- Federal Policy Fellows will support tracking and monitoring federal legislation, support engaging in federal advocacy efforts (The National College Access Network), and bank stories related to the LSA’s federal policy priorities. The Federal Policy Fellow will be charged with co-leading a Federal Policy session during the LSA’s annual meeting researching the Leagues Campus Policy Agenda.
- State Policy Fellowship will support tracking and monitoring state legislation, support engaging in state advocacy efforts (MO Child Advocacy Day, St. Louis Graduates Legislative Breakfast), and bank stories related to the LSA’s policy priorities. The State Policy Fellow will be charged with co-leading a State Policy session during the LSA’s annual meeting.
- Strategic Data Fellows will train students interested in data and statistics to use data for justice and advancing a policy position. Under the leadership of the Advocacy Director, via training from industry experts, Data Fellows will become experts on using data to positively impact policy change. *These positions are only for students receiving the Equifax Finance Scholarship.
If you have questions about the Foundation’s fellowship programs, joining the League, or the policy priorities, please contact us.