FULTON — Students at William Woods University who receive state-funded scholarships have asked the governor not to use the money to balance the Missouri budget.
During a meeting last week, students complained that the governor's proposal to eliminate scholarship funding for private university students is discriminatory. They told The Fulton Sun it would make Missouri the only state in the nation that denies state scholarship funds to students who attend private colleges and universities.
Gov. Jay Nixon has proposed $50 million in cuts to programs like Access Missouri and Bright Flight, but only for nonpublic colleges and universities. The governor has said the cuts are necessary because of an estimated $500 million budget shortfall going into the next fiscal year.
Sherry McCarthy, William Woods University vice president and dean of academic affairs, said the cuts would cause 235 William Woods University students to lose all state scholarship funding worth about $750,000. McCarthy urged students to send e-mails urging Missouri legislators to reject Nixon's plan.
Privately operated colleges and universities have established a Web site for students and other interested people to use as a tool to lobby legislators.
Kristen Withrow, a William Woods freshman from Odessa, said William Woods is the only university in the state to offer an equine administration major. She is interested in therapeutic riding.
"My parents can't afford to send me to William Woods. It is only because of Bright Flight and Access Missouri scholarships that I am able to attend William Woods," Withrow said. "If both scholarships are cut, I will lose about $6,000 and I won't be here any more."
Other students also said they would have to drop out of school if all funding for state scholarships to students attending private colleges and universities is cut.
Students at Westminster College, which also is located in Fulton, are planning a campus rally at 11 a.m. Thursday to oppose Nixon's plan to cut state scholarship funding.
State lawmakers are considering a separate proposal to change the Access Missouri scholarship program by making the amounts students at public and private colleges receive more comparable. The measure is supported by students at many public schools, that currently receive half the award amount given to private college students.