MOHELA grants $30 million in scholarships to offset Access Missouri cuts

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 | 5:50 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The state's largest need-based scholarship program now has an additional $30 million to distribute to colleges and universities in Missouri.

The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, or MOHELA, pledged $30 million in scholarship money to the state in June, but the decision to allocate the funds through the Access Missouri program was announced last week. This money helps offset the $50 million cut from the Access Missouri program when Gov. Jay Nixon signed the new budget in June.

The money is planned to be distributed through Access Missouri to make the process simple for students. The $30 million only applies to the 2010-11 academic year.

“There is no guarantee, or no expectation, I should say, that this will happen again, that MOHELA will have the funds to do this again,” Leroy Wade, Missouri Department of Higher Education assistant commissioner for financial assistance said. “So it is a one-time event in that sense.”

Although MOHELA’s pledge brings Access Missouri’s need-based scholarship fund to a total of $60 million, an increase in needy students and the overall reduction in funds means the size of the scholarships given out could be smaller than what's mandated by a 2007 state law.

More than 102,000 students qualify for Access Missouri scholarships this academic year, compared to 86,000 eligible students in 2009-10, according to a release from the Missouri Department of Higher Education. The Missouri Department of Higher Education plans to re-evaluate award levels before the fall semester begins and again in December. Award levels could be adjusted at either point to remain on budget, the news release said.

Before Access Missouri provided more exact amounts of available funds, MU's financial aid department had to make rougher estimates of award levels. While the numbers could still change, the announcement of the new funds allowed university officials to have a clearer picture of what students could receive.

At MU, all aid awards are currently estimated at $950 — a change that affects students differently.

“Returning students (at MU) will be getting about $450 more than we had originally assumed,” Christian Basi, associate director for the MU News Bureau, said.

However, Access Missouri's aid for MU freshmen is now $380 less than the average of $1,330 originally estimated.

Students with questions regarding their financial aid should contact the financial aid department directly, Basi said. The office's number is 882-7506.

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