July 11, 2014

Brightening the Bright Flight Scholarship (AUDIO)

The state’s scholarship program aimed at keeping its best and brightest high school graduates in Missouri colleges and universities is not doing its job.

The Bright Flight Scholarships started as two-thousand dollar state scholarships for the top three percent of Missouri high school graduates in an effort to keep them from going to out-of-state universities.  The scholarship is now $3,000. But college tuition has made the Bright Flight Scholarship far less important than it was at the start.

Rep. Mike Thomson of Maryville says the numbers show the program isn’t working.

“By 2025, sixty percent of the available jobs that we’re going to have in Missouri … are going to require some sort of certification,” he tells the House Education Committee. “Right now Missouri stands just above forty percent.  I think it’s imperative that we cut down on what we call the Brain Drain.”

If fully funded, the present program could provide students $12,000 for four years of higher education.  But he says one-third of Missouri’s top high school graduates go to other states that offer better scholarships — and the number is forecast to continue to shrink. What’s worse, he says, is that only 37 percent of the 10,000 students eligible for the program now will end up working in Missouri.

Thomson proposes giving those students $5,000 loans per year to go with their scholarships.  Each year the student stays and works in Missouri,  $5,000 of the loan is forgiven.

Thomson hopes the combined $8,500 a year will reverse a trend of Bright Flight students leaving Missouri.

AUDIO: Thompson testifies 16:13