State Scholarship Programs Failing Missouri Students, Report Finds

Jamie Wilger News

A report released today by The League of Student Advocates of The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis recommends replacing the four current state-sponsored scholarship programs with a single program that focuses scholarship awards on students in the state with the highest financial need. The report finds the four scholarship programs poorly designed and functionally inequitable, negatively affecting all students with financial need, especially those who are Black or live in rural parts of the state.

Key findings of the Report Card on the Scholarship Programs of the State of Missouri  document inequitable distribution of Missouri’s scholarship awards through the A+, Access Missouri, Bright Flight, and Fast Track scholarship programs, as follows:

  • Funding for Missouri’s need-based scholarship programs is consistently and grossly inadequate.
  • Awards to students with financial need are significantly less than those made to students without financial need.
  • Missouri’s population is 12% Black, yet Black students receive 2% or less of the awards from the A+, Bright Flight, and Fast Track programs.
  • Missouri’s rural population is 37% of the state, yet students from rural areas receive disproportionately less scholarship dollars from the Access Missouri, Bright Flight, and Fast Track programs (13-29%).

The report’s authors, four Policy Data Fellows with The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, concede a complete restructuring takes time but assert NOW is the time to begin the work. They recommend immediate steps to make current scholarship programs more equitable, including:

  • Increase Access Missouri appropriations and award amounts.
  • Adjust the Bright Flight test score requirement from the top 3-5% of test takers to students who score 20% or more above the state average for ACT, SAT, or equivalent.
  • Eliminate “in demand” occupation restrictions for the Fast Track program.
  • Realign the A+ scholarship to be a “first dollar” program instead of “last dollar”.
  • Remove the requirements for community service and attendance at an A+ high school.

This report is the latest and most comprehensive conducted by The League of Student Advocates of The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis. Prior studies analyzed inequities in the racial, economic, and geographic distribution of Access Missouri and Bright Flight scholarships. Much of the data used in the current report had not been made public prior to this study and was requested from the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development by Representative Kevin Windham, Jr.

This study provides Missouri lawmakers proof of disparity and clear opportunities to restructure the state’s scholarship programs for more equitable college access and increased degree completion by Missouri students.

The full report and graphic report card can be accessed here.