A plan to change Missouri’s primary scholarship program so that public college students can get the same amount of money as private college students has stalled in the legislature.
At present, Access Missouri provides a maximum scholarship of $2,150 a year if the student attends a public college. That maximum jumps to $4,600 if the student attends a private college.
Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff) sponsors HB 792 which would make the maximum scholarship from Access Missouri $2,850, no matter where the student attends.
"We do think they should be equitable," Kingery says, "and that’s what this bill tries to achieve."
Kingery’s bill, though, has yet to be assigned to committee, a necessary step before the legislature can even consider it. The best Kingery has been able to get is an informational hearing before a House committee to discuss the concept, but not to take any action.
It appears House leadership feels bound by a deal struck during the Blunt Administration that paved the way for the MoHELA college capital improvement program. In exchange for House support of the MoHELA plan, then-Governor Blunt promised to support creation of Access Missouri. The disparity between scholarships awarded to public and private students apparently was part of the deal.
Kingery says the current Access Missouri policy encourages students to go to private colleges. He says the state is pushing students toward private colleges when it offers more than twice the scholarship for private school as for public.
"We’re actually influencing part of their decision when we do that," Kingery says.
Westminster College sophomore Raghela Scavuzzo of Harrisonville receives the full $4,600 scholarship to attend the private college in Fulton.
"I still have two years left on my education," Scavuzzo says, "If they’re going to cut me by a lot, I can’t afford to take out more loans and my Mom can’t afford to pay that either. I’m gonna have to probably transfer."
Kingery’s proposal will be discussed in a House committee meeting today. A similar senate bill, SB 390 , has a hearing scheduled for tomorrow. It is sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaeffer (R-Columbia).