In Support of Full Funding of the Access Missouri Program

By: Faith Sandler, The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis

Testimony to the House Appropriations – Education Committee
In Support of Full Funding of the Access Missouri Program

I am Faith Sandler and I am here today representing the St. Louis Regional College Access Pipeline Project. CAP is a collaboration of K-12 education, higher education, collegeaccess service providers, business and philanthropic leaders working to improve college access and success for low-income, first-generation and minority students in the St. Louis region. Our goal is that 50% of the adults in the St. Louis region have a postsecondary degree by 2020 – almost double what our percentage is today.

I am also the Executive Director of the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis. We provide grants and interest-free loans to students who lack other financial resources to attend college. Since our founding in 1920, we have distributed over $45 million to 6,700 students in the St. Louis region.

CAP and the Scholarship Foundation strongly advocate for full funding of the Access Missouri program. Full funding means that all students who qualify for Access Missouri are able to receive the maximum award amount for which they qualify. Two years ago this amounted to $96 million. We expect full funding would require approximately the same amount this year.

Last year, the Legislature appropriated $83 million for Access Missouri, a 13% reduction from the year before. Governor Nixon then cut $50 million from the program.Even with a $30 million grant from MOHELA, Access Missouri awards fell well below the statute minimum.

This year MOHELA has once again said it will consider providing a $30 milliongrant to the state to help fund the Access Missouri program. We applaud this possible use of MOHELA funds. We think the state should leverage this commitment by fully funding the Access Missouri program – essentially matching the MOHELA gift 2 to 1.

Access Missouri is the state’s only need-based financial aid program. To qualify, students must demonstrate significant financial need. Two-thirds of Access Missouristudents have less than $4,000 of available family financial support. About one-third have less than $500. The students who qualify for Access Missouri are truly students with financial need – they simply cannot attend college without significant financial support.

The state of Missouri’s own economic development goals point out that we are falling woefully short of graduating the numbers of post secondary-degreed students ourworkforce needs for the long-term. At the Governor’s Education Summit in August, the Lumina Foundation reported that Missouri needs an additional 3,400 college graduates each year to meet expected demand. By 2018, we can expect that 59% of all jobs in ourstate will require some postsecondary training.

Students who have a postsecondary degree are part of the vibrant economy of our state. Research shows that students with a college degree earn 156% more over their lifetime than those with a high school diploma alone. That earning power is the backbone of our state’s tax base. Moreover, research also shows that even those without a degree see higher wages when the proportion of degrees increases. In other words, we all benefit when more of us earn a postsecondary degree.

We know that financial aid is just one of the barriers students face when considering a postsecondary degree – but it is a critical barrier. And it is one that is easily addressed.

Access Missouri is working. MOHELA has provided an incentive to the state to do its part. We urge the Legislature to fully fund the Access Missouri program for the benefit of the state and our students.

For more information please contact: Faith Sandler, Executive Director, The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, and Co-chair, St. Louis Regional College Access Pipeline Project, can be reached at faith@sfstl.org or(314) 725-7990.

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