Issue Position: Education - The Missouri Promise
Jay Nixon Announces Plan to Make College More Affordable for Middle-Class Missouri Families
The Missouri Promise will make the dream of a college education a reality for thousands of middle-class families
Attorney General Jay Nixon today announced the Missouri Promise, a new plan to provide a pathway for middle-class Missourians to earn a four-year degree from a state college or university -- tuition free. Nixon announced his plan on the campuses of the University of Missouri at Saint Louis, Columbia and Kansas City.
"With tuition skyrocketing at colleges and universities across the state, too many middle-class families in Missouri are getting squeezed by the cost a college education," Attorney General Nixon said. "While other states have been making college more affordable and accessible, Missouri has moved backwards. The Missouri Promise will create a pathway to a four-year degree for those families struggling to afford college tuition during these difficult economic times. We must make the dream of a college education a reality for all Missouri families."
Building on the state's existing A+ Schools Program, the Missouri Promise creates a pathway to a four-year degree for Missouri students who satisfy specific academic, community service and financial need requirements. After completing a two-year associate's degree at a Missouri community college or technical school under the A+ Program, students who meet the criteria would be eligible to access the Missouri Promise scholarship to cover cost of tuition at a Missouri state college or university.
To implement the Missouri Promise, Nixon will:
(1) Expand the existing A+ Program, which is currently available to only half the state's high school students, so that all Missouri high school students who meet the performance requirements have an opportunity attend community college or technical school tuition free.
(2) Offer all high school seniors who plan to access an A+ scholarship the opportunity to sign the Missouri Promise, a contract between the student and the State of Missouri that will allow the student to earn a four-year degree after completing his or her two-year degree at a community college or technical school. In exchange for earning good grades at the community college (3.0 GPA), completing 50 hours of community service per year of participation and avoiding disciplinary action, the student then will receive a Missouri Promise scholarship to complete his or her four-year degree at a state college or university.
The Missouri Promise is intended to target middle-class Missouri families who are struggling to afford the cost of tuition. In order to be eligible for a Missouri Promise scholarship, the student's Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) must be below $12,000 annually. Under Nixon's plan, the EFC will be based on the same formula used for federal aid when students file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) form. For example, a family of four with one child in college could have an annual income of roughly $80,000 and qualify for the Missouri Promise.
For details on the eligibility chart, see: http://www.finaid.org/calculators/scripts/quickefcchart.cgi
To qualify for a Missouri Promise scholarship, the student must apply for and take advantage of all federal and state financial aid already available, as well as applicable scholarships offered by the colleges and universities.
Based on estimates provided by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the expansion of A+ and the implementation of the Missouri Promise will cost approximately $61 million.
Joining Nixon today was State Rep. Clint Zweifel, D-St. Louis County, who has sponsored a similar bill in the Missouri House of Representatives (HB 1693).
"No child in Missouri should be barred from a four-year degree because of the constantly increasing cost of higher education," Rep. Zweifel said. "I'm glad to stand with Jay and let Missouri's students know that if they're willing to commit to good grades and good citizenship, we're willing to commit to helping them earn their college degree. The Missouri Promise will change the lives of thousands of Missouri students and move our entire state in the right direction."
Former State Sen. Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia, the author of the original A+ Schools legislation, praised Nixon's proposal as an extension of the work he began years ago.
"When we created the A+ Program, our goal was to help Missouri's young people get the education and skills they need to lead productive, fruitful lives," Sen. Mathewson said. "The Missouri Promise takes that original idea a step further by creating a pathway to a four-year degree for anyone who's willing to devote time and effort to their studies and community service. This is a wonderful program, and I am proud to stand with Jay and will do everything I can to support his plan."
Higher education leaders also pointed to Nixon's plan as a giant step forward for higher education accessibility and affordability in the state.
"The Missouri Promise would turn the dream of a college education into reality for families across Missouri," said Dr. Charles McClain, former Commissioner of Higher Education, former president of Truman State University and the first president of Jefferson College, the original two-year community college in Missouri. "As college tuition continues to skyrocket, this program would give every family in Missouri an accessible and affordable option. As an educator, I'm extremely excited about this plan and the positive impact it will have on students in our state."
University faculty have endorsed Nixon's plan as well, citing the tremendous debt that increasingly burdens recent college graduates.
"As a professor, it's disheartening to watch my students celebrate their graduations and immediately face thousands of dollars in debt," said Dr. Terry Jones, professor of political science at the University of Missouri -- St. Louis. "This program will allow our students to start their careers and not worry about paying off student loans for years -- if not decades. I fully support this plan because I know what a difference it will make for students and families in our state."