The State Senate has given first round approval to SB 558 – Governor Jay Nixon’s Missouri Promise Initiative, which the Governor says would create a pathway to debt-free, four-year college degrees for students from middle-class families.
The initiative, sponsored by Senator Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) passed with virtually no opposition.
"We’re gonna have to educate a greater number of our citizens and provide them higher education degrees," said Mayer. "If we’re going to keep up with the kind of economy and standard of living that Missourians expect."
But there was disagreement over a proposal to change the Access Missouri program, which currently provides more aid for students attending private schools than it does for those attending public universities. An amendment sponsored by Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) would have put the maximum amount available for both public and private colleges to $2,850.
"If you’re a student going to a private, four-year institution you’re eligible for a maximum of $4,600, yet if you go to a public institution you’re eligible for a maximum of $2,150," said Schaefer. "All this amendment would do is equal those both out at $2,850 whether you choose to go to a public or private four-year institution."
That amendment ran into opposition from several members, including Senator LuAnn Ridgeway (R-Smithville) who has concerns about students being forced to attend public colleges.
"It forces the student to make a choice out of their financial need, "said Ridgeway. "That should never be the case in the state of Missouri. A student should be able to aspire to their highest and their best at the educational facility of their choice."
Schaefer’s amendment went down to defeat as fourteen Senators voted in favor with sixteen voting against it. The overall Missouri Promise legislation needs one more positive vote in the Senate before it can be sent to the House.