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LETTER: Support fair balance in funding students through Access Missouri

Friday, March 13, 2009 | 9:01 p.m. CDT; updated 6:05 p.m. CDT, Saturday, March 14, 2009

Missourians should support SB390 and HB792 to provide a fair balance in funding for students in the Access Missouri scholarship program.  

Under this legislation, any student attending a four-year public or private institution would receive the same scholarship amount – $2,850. Today, the private school student would receive $4,600 while his or her counterpart at a public institution is limited to $2,150. 

Members who signed this letter include

Mr. Craig M. Lalumandier -Weldon Spring

Mr. Jim Gwinner - St. Louis

Mr. Robert Bailey - Columbia

Mr. Richard P. Moore - Ballwin

Mr. W. Dudley McCarter - Creve Coeur

Mr. Jay M. Dade - Rogersville/Springfield

Ms. Melodie Anne Powell - Kansas City

Mrs. Cordelia M. "Dee" Esry - Hamilton

Ronald L. Lankford, Ed.D. - Joplin

Mr. Joe Moseley - Columbia

Mr. David R. Griggs - Columbia

Mr. Jayson B. Lenox - St. Charles

Mr. Lowell F. Mohler - Jefferson City

Mr. Keith Dorsch - Lexington

Mrs. Lesa Wessler McCartney - Kirksville

Mr. John Michael Hark – Hannibal



This legislation provides needed balance in the program during a time when our public institutions have been rocked with budget cuts and continue to operate today at state funding levels below that provided in 2001. What private institution could say that?

There are two compelling facts that underscore why the time is right to provide this correction. First, Missouri ranks 47th out of the 50 states in per-capita taxpayer support for public higher education.  Only three states spend less – and Missourians should be proud of the quality education our public institutions provide for that meager appropriation.

The second fact is that Missouri ranks fourth out of the 50 states in the percentage of our taxpayer-supported need-based scholarships that go to students attending private institutions. Most Missourians – and most lawmakers – seem surprised to learn that our private students receive such a large scholarship subsidy from the state.

While it is true that the legislation proposed would result in a reduction in taxpayer-supported scholarships for private school students, it would increase the scholarship amount for a larger number of public students. For each private school student who loses two dollars, there are two needy public school students who get a dollar boost. That is providing true access to the neediest.

Our private institutions provide a valuable service to the state and are an essential part of the education landscape in Missouri. But that does not justify providing more than twice the scholarship funding under the banner of choice. Private institutions have greater flexibility in identifying other funds such as endowment income that can be used to replace lost taxpayer scholarship funding – and they are not restricted by the tuition restraint laws that have been placed on our public institutions.

If our state budgets allowed, private school students would continue to receive their $4,600 Access award and we would give that same amount to students at public institutions. We also would provide operating funding for our public institutions that keeps pace with inflation year after year and provide consistent revenue to keep up the buildings at our public institutions.

But Missourians are not interested in paying more taxes. So we need to be fair with the scholarship dollars that are provided today. What is fair is equal distribution regardless of which school you choose. That is what SB390 and HB782 would do. It is time for equal access.

The Mizzou Legislative Network is a grassroots coalition of alumni, students and friends of Mizzou who share a dedication to higher education and to Mizzou. Members are called upon to contact their legislators about specific issues and to relay a positive, consistent and constant message about all that Mizzou offers.


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