On Tuesday, April 15th, Education Policy Interns hand delivered the following letter to members of the Budget Conference Committee urging them to increase funding in the existing Access Missouri program, before considering funding a new scholarship program:
Dear Budget Conference Committee,
We are writing to ask you to allocate 10 million dollars from the Fast Track program to Access Missouri. The state’s need-based grant program, Access Missouri, is an investment in both the students and the economy of Missouri. Students depend on need-based aid programs to help meet the cost of attending college and completing their degrees. Missouri invests less than the national average per student compared to other states (Anderson, 9)(1). Compared to the merit-based Bright Flight scholarship, Access Missouri has been continuously underfunded, and the award students receive is far under the statute maximum of $2,800.
Missouri’s economy has been growing, but that growth is in jeopardy without an educated workforce to drive it. More and more professions require post-secondary degrees. Missouri lags behind the national average with 43.1% of its workforce having some post-secondary education. The current national average stands at 46.9% (Anderson, 2)(1). If Access Missouri grants were fully funded, students would have a smaller margin of unmet financial need, leading to a decrease in student loan debt and an increase in graduation rates.
The price of higher education has been continuously increasing, outpacing inflation. With limited aid from the federal government, it would be advantageous for the state to offer further aid. The national average that is spent per state per student is $624. Missouri spends less than half of the average per student, $298. Missouri must prioritize funding for Access Missouri to ensure that more students can attend college and graduate. Lack of action from Missouri places both the students and the state at a disadvantage.
As recipients of Access Missouri, we experience the benefits of the grant. As Education Policy interns at The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis and members of the Active Advocacy Coalition, we ask you to prioritize funding for Access Missouri.
Investing in Missouri’s students and helping make post-secondary education affordable ought to be a priority. Fully funding Access Missouri would do exactly that and would go a long way to helping students finish their degrees. Once again, we are writing to ask you to allocate 10 million dollars from the Fast Track program to Access Missouri.
Omida Shahab, Gary Stevenson, and Sara Rutherford
Scholarship Foundation St. Louis Policy Interns
(1) Anderson, Drew M. (2018). Access Missouri, Geographic Distribution of Financial Need, College Enrollment, and Financial Aid. Retrieved from The Active Advocacy Coalition Website: http://bit.ly/AccessMORpt