After fretting since 2015 that the University of Missouri-Columbia’s enrollment was declining along with its reputation, the university has taken a positive step to boost its numbers and polish its image. The university is offering to cover all tuition costs for first-time freshmen, transfer and existing students who qualify for federal Pell grants, making the campus more available to diverse and low-income students.

School officials have been struggling with recruitment since student-led protests and incidents of racial insensitivity caused turmoil on campus and among student athletes. The UM System president was forced out amid complaints that he had done too little to curb racism and bigotry on campus, the chancellor resigned and the legislature cut the school’s budget.

Trying to bounce back, Mizzou is offering to pay full tuition for about 3,500 Pell-eligible students. The initiative will help demonstrate to minority and low-income students that their presence is valued to expand the multicultural experience on campus. That wasn’t clear after Mizzou was swamped with undesirable publicity from the protests and accusations that it was slow to react to tensions that had been openly simmering for years.

A great state university should be a welcoming place for high school graduates who have earned their place in higher education. Perception matters, as has been reflected by the university’s sharp decline in enrollment at a time when other universities, such as Missouri State, have seen steady increases. Mizzou’s leadership correctly recognized the need for action to turn its image around.

The offer is for in-state and transfer students, and does not include other schools in the MU system.

Parents and eligible students should take advantage of the university’s generosity and effort to extend a more welcoming hand.

Copyright the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Republished with permission.

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