JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House gave first-round approval to a bill that would equalize the amount of money public and private university students can receive in a state need-based scholarship.
Under the legislation, students could renew their scholarships with a 2.0 GPA or higher. Students in four-year schools would receive up to $2,850 through the program whether they attend a public or private institution. Two-year community college students would receive up to $1,300.
Access Missouri covers lower-income students who qualify under federal income standards.
Now, the program gives these amounts to students with a GPA of 2.5 or more:
- Four-year private school students: $4,600
- Four-year public school students: $2,150
- Two-year community college students: $1,000
The Access Missouri scholarship is a need-based award rather than merit-based, said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville.
The initial proposal for equalization came during House debate from Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia.
Still said she saw her amendment as an "opportunity to equalize scholarships" and pointed out that two times more state funds go to private universities.
Rep. Margo McNeil, D-Florissant, supported Still's amendment. McNeil said Missouri was fourth in the nation for funding private higher education with public money and 47th in the country for public higher education funding.
The House ultimately agreed to postpone the implementation date until the 2014-15 school year, which would allow almost all current students to keep their scholarship rates. The passed version also removes the expiration date for the program.
In order to fill the $500 million budget deficit, Gov. Jay Nixon mentioned removing public scholarships for private institutions entirely, but the House didn't discuss any such measures Tuesday.
The bill requires one more formal House vote before moving to the Senate.