Missouri prepares to increase student financial aid scholarships

The Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development is preparing for an increase in the number of students receiving state financial aid this year.

Legislative changes to the rules governing state financial aid programs and increased credits will likely lead to an increase in the number of students receiving aid, said Jessica Duren, assistant commissioner for communications and outreach.

“We are really pleased with all the increases in financial aid this year,” Duren said. “I think it’s going to make a really big difference in the lives of a lot of students.”

The Access Missouri Program, Bright Flight Program, A+ Scholarship Program, and Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant are some of the largest financial aid programs in the state.

The official number of students eligible for state financial aid is not yet available, as schools will begin processing scholarships on September 7. Programs have varying deadlines for reporting data to the state.

The department is also updating the Fast Track program application process to reflect changes passed by the Legislative Assembly earlier this year. He expects the app to be available this fall.

Senate Bill 672, sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, and signed into law by Governor Mike Parson, expanded the Fast Track program to include more training and apprenticeship programs, and repealed the conditions which required students to take loan counseling and live in the state for three years after completing their program. He added a requirement that participants must live in the state for two years before receiving assistance.

Based on these changes, Duren said, the department is “certainly planning more awards for Fast Track.”

The Fast Track program is for working adults who want to earn a degree or skills with certifications and apprenticeships. The grant can be applied to tuition and fees or direct costs associated with learning, such as tools, books, and uniforms. It supported 391 students last year, with scholarships totaling $1.6 million.

Previously, if students left the state to live or work elsewhere within three years of completing the program, the scholarship converted into a loan. With the legislative change removing this requirement, the department forgives loans to students who have left.

“We anticipate that withdrawing this potential loan would allow many more adults to take advantage of the program,” Duren said.

She said Access Missouri, the state’s need-based aid program, may also see an increase in the number of students receiving scholarships after the legislature earmarked more money for the program, allowing the department to revise its income eligibility ceiling.

Access Missouri scholarships are awarded to students based on their expected family contribution determined through the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Students with an expected family contribution of less than $15,000 are eligible for the grant. The department previously capped eligibility for an expected family contribution of $12,000.

“So potentially more students will be eligible for Access Missouri,” Duren said. “The scholarship amounts would remain the same, but more students would be eligible to receive this.”

About 36,083 students received Access Missouri scholarships last year, with scholarships totaling $66.7 million.

Access Missouri rewards are set at the maximum amount allowed by law.

For students attending two-year public institutions, the minimum scholarship amount is $300 per year and the maximum is $1,300 per year. For public four-year, private, and virtual institutions and the State Technical College of Missouri, the minimum scholarship amount is $1,500 per year and the maximum is $2,850 per year.

For students whose FAFSA record determines an expected family contribution greater than $7,000, state law requires that award amounts be reduced by 10% of the maximum award. For them, the rewards will fall somewhere between the minimum and maximum amounts.

Program updates and additional funds the Legislature has launched for Bright Flight, a merit-based scholarship program, could also allow more students to obtain state financial aid, Duren said. .

The state has revised the ACT test score required to receive the full Bright Flight award to 32 (the top three percent of test takers) and is accepting super scores, which is a score formed with the highest scores in the state. student on each section of the test through several attempts.

“We think by adding the super score, it’s probably going to balance out a bit, even though the score went from 31 to 32,” Duren said.

But the department also potentially rewards students who achieve the top fourth and fifth percentiles for the very first time, if there is funding. The top three percent will receive funds first, Duren explained, and then the remaining funds will help the fourth and fifth percentiles.

“This is really great news for students who got a 30,” she said, adding that it’s retroactive for students who graduated from high school as early as 2018.

Duren said the department is asking institutions to help identify current students, who graduated from high school about four years ago and may now be eligible for state Bright Flight funds.

The merit-based scholarship awards students $3,000 per year ($1,500 per semester) for scoring in the top 3% of applicants. Students with the top 4 and 5 percent are eligible for up to $1,000 per year ($500 per semester).

For the 2021-22 school year, Missouri spent $20.9 million on Bright Flight scholarships for 7,367 students.

It’s harder to predict the number of scholarships under the A+ scholarship program, created to provide eligible high school students with financial aid while attending community college or technical school, Duren said. .

It depends on what high school seniors who graduated in the spring decide to do, she said, adding that the department will have a better idea of ​​the number of awards once institutions submit data. state registration, which has not happened yet.

About 14,181 students received A+ scholarships in the 2021-22 school year, according to department figures, totaling about $49.3 million in state spending.