February 11, 2010
Contact: Kathy Love — 573.522.1463
Coordinating Board Supports Status Quo of Access Missouri Award Levels
Lexington — The Coordinating Board for Higher Education, meeting at Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington today, voted to support the current award amounts provided under the Access Missouri scholarship program. In taking this position, the board reiterated that changes to the Access Missouri program should be considered collaboratively by all sectors.
Two bills (SB 784 and HB 1812) have been filed which would equalize the amounts awarded to students who attend public and independent four-year institutions. Under current law, the maximum amount for students attending a public institution is $2,150 and the maximum amount awarded to attend an independent school is $4,600. The proposed legislation would equalize the maximum amounts at $2,850.
As proposed, the changes would not go into effect until 2014 at the earliest. The statute that created Access Missouri in 2007 calls for it to sunset in 2013.
Board Chairman Lowell Kruse asked board members to explain the reasons for their votes to be communicated during public testimony on the bill.
Board member Greg Upchurch of St. Louis, said that in light of the time frame proposed by the legislation and the sunset for Access Missouri, it would be appropriate for the public and private sectors to get together now to make decisions about future award amounts, rather than changing the current allocations that have been in effect for only three years.
Board member Doris Carter of St. Louis said she supports equalization in theory, but that the decision should be the result of a process that involves all sectors.
Board member Mary Beth Luna Wolf of St. Louis participated in the 18-month process that led to the structure of Access Missouri award amounts. “All sectors — public and private — agreed on these award amounts,” said Luna Wolf. “The proposed legislation is not based on an agreement between the sectors. If we’re going to move forward to improve higher education, we need to do so collectively.”
Coordinating Board Chairman Lowell Kruse cast the lone vote in support of the proposed legislation, acknowledging that it is a charged issue. “Conditions have changed dramatically since the award amounts were established,” Kruse said. “State support for public institutions is not at the level that was anticipated at the time, and they are struggling. I know we’re all in favor of higher education, no matter where it takes place. The question is how to proceed deliberately and fairly.”