Missouri’s college scholarship programs underfunded at time of rising tuition

Many high-achieving and low-income high school students bound for college get an assist from the state of Missouri in the form of modest scholarships, but budget constraints have left programs that help both groups of students underfunded and unable to keep up with rising tuition.

About 6,700 students who’ve scored in the top 3 percent on the ACT receive a $3,000 Bright Flight scholarship annually from the Missouri Department of Higher Education. Nearly 50,000 more students receive the needs-based Access Missouri scholarship, worth up to $2,850 a year.

However, the department is struggling to maintain even the current funding, so students aren’t getting as much as expected, according to deputy commissioner Leroy Wade.

Bright Flight was established in 1987 to try to keep Missouri’s smartest high school students in the state. The $2,000 award was enough to cover a year at the University of Missouri’s flagship campus in Columbia back then. The scholarship has increased by only a thousand dollars since its inception  — less than 20 percent of Mizzou’s current $10,700 in-state tuition. Private schools cost even more.

Annually, the state spends $18 million on Bright Flight scholarships, and is expected to be fully funded with another $4 million in the budget that begins July 1 to keep pace with increasing demand. But the higher ed department asked the legislature for — and could get — another $1 million before the end of June just so recipients can receive what they were promised this school year.

Read more: St. Louis Public Radio


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