The Scholarship Foundation’s Education Policy Interns traveled to Missouri’s state capitol to advocate for increased access to postsecondary education for students who are low-income and/or first-generation college attendees. Executive Director Faith Sandler testified before the House Appropriations Committee on Higher Education highlighting specific recommendations to provide the greatest impact for Missouri students. Read her full testimony below:
Faith Sandler, Executive Director, The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis and Advocacy Committee Chair, St. Louis Graduates
We appreciate the opportunity to testify this early in the higher education appropriations process and will keep our testimony direct and brief. We’ll be glad to return as you are considering specific budgets.
The work of The Scholarship Foundation and of St. Louis Graduates focuses on students who are low income and/or first in their families to attend college. We know that Missouri’s current and future workforce will require postsecondary certificates and degrees for two-thirds of our population. For a sustainable state economy, we will need technical skills, professional degrees, and everything in between. One thing we know for sure, a high school diploma is no longer enough.
We also know that our legislature has the difficult task of deciding priorities among many proposals and limited state resources. If you share our goal to put resources where they will make the greatest difference, here is what we recommend you consider seriously in the items that will come to you this session:
- INCREASE THE BUDGET FOR ACCESS MISSOURI, our state need-based scholarship program. Access Missouri was at its budgetary high point of $92 million in 2009 and has lost budgetary strength and spending power since. At present, 50,000 Missourians qualify for and need this scholarship, but it provides just $1,850 at its maximum award. Missouri has lost ground and hurt students for whom affordability is key. It’s time to change that.
- SUSPEND ANY BUDGET INCREASES FOR MERIT-BASED SCHOLARSHIPS until a thorough review and restructuring can occur. We know there are bills pending to add a forgivable loan component to Bright Flight. In a constricted economy with so much need among students across our state, we oppose expanding a program that helps many, many students who do not need the funds. At present, some 6,000 students receive this award which is currently at $3,000 per student (almost double our need-based scholarship). There is no defensible reason to expand the budget for this program.
- OPPOSE THE IMPOSITION OF ANY LANGUAGE REGARDING IMMIGRATION STATUS OR TUITION POLICY FROM THE BUDGET BILL. Regardless of where you may stand on the matter of serving our state’s undocumented students (and we support those students and their education), the budget bill is NOT the place to legislate immigration or higher education policy and the practice of issuing threats in the pre-amble should be discontinued.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today, and for your service to the state and to our students.