Students are prepared for college, young people are both attending and finishing with degrees, and Missouri is reaping the rewards of an educated populace. But according to the 2004 Missouri State Report Card on Higher Education, accomplishing all this is just too expensive.
The study, by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, finds Missouri families, whose income level is in the bottom 40 percent of the population, would have a difficult time paying for college — making Missouri one of 36 states to earn an “F” on the biennial report card.
Even after financial aid, paying for a student to attend a four-year college requires an average of 41 percent of a working-class family’s annual income.
Nationally, the situation is similar: only three states earned higher than a “D” in affordability.
However, officials at Columbia’s institutes of higher education say there is only so much they can do to solve this problem.
“Our affordability is very much connected to our state appropriations funding stream,” said Joe Moore, spokesman for the University of Missouri system, noting that he had not seen the report card.
“In the last three fiscal years, we have seen $148.5 million in cuts, and that created very difficult times for the university,” Moore said.
Amy Gipson, spokeswoman for Stephens College, said the college tries to help students as much as possible by providing financial aid.
“Access to education is very important, so we reward students for their involvement in leadership activities and for academic excellence,” Gipson said.
Gerald Brouder, president of Columbia College, emphasized the benefits of attending college, even if it is difficult to afford. “First of all, earnings over a lifetime are much higher for an individual who attended college,” Brouder said. “Also, higher education increases self-fulfillment and overall quality of life.”
He added that Columbia College has enacted minor tuition increases over the past several years.
In the report card’s areas of preparation, participation, completion and benefits, Missouri scored much better.
Doug Mirts, assistant principal at Hickman High School, credits teachers for encouraging students to attend college.
“It’s those individual teachers out there on the front lines who are really motivating students to achieve higher education,” Mirts said.
Brouder agreed that high schools, especially high school teachers, play a key role in college attendance. He explained that when teachers and students continuously challenge themselves, preparation for college is much improved. “Students need to choose rigorous curricula, and teachers should continue their own educations,” Brouder said.
Brouder said that when teachers challenge themselves, they are better able to challenge and excite their students — and then their students are more likely to attend college.
Kim Girse, a guidance counselor at Rock Bridge High School, said a good way to challenge students and prepare them for college is through advanced placement courses, which are offered by both Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools. “AP classes are good preparation because they require a similar level of dedication and diligence as college classes,” Girse said.
However, Girse also said that AP classes might not be for everyone.“It takes a certain type of motivated student,” she said.