When freshman Reed Wilson’s father opened up her tuition bill from MU late last semester, he was surprised to find that it was $400 higher than he was expecting.
Wilson, a Bright Flight scholar, said she was not aware that a state funding issue left her short almost 27 percent of her guaranteed $1,500 semesterly scholarship until it was reflected in her tuition.
Wilson is one of the 6,685 students in the state of Missouri and one of the 1,964 MU students who receives the Bright Flight scholarship — a $3,000 annual scholarship for in-state students who scored a 31 or greater on their ACT.
Because of a larger-than-anticipated increase of students who qualified for the scholarship for the 2016-2017 academic year, the original appropriation from the state for the program did not cover the cost of providing each student with the maximum scholarship award of $1,500 per semester.
Bright Flight scholars received $1,500 last semester and $1,100 for this semester so far. Liz Coleman, Missouri Department of Higher Education spokeswoman, said the department has requested a supplemental appropriation of $1.5 million for the 2017 budget to cover the rest of the semesterly amount that the students were originally promised.
However, neither the department — nor the students — will find out if they will receive that money until around April or May. Coleman said in an email that they will not know until the General Assembly decides on the supplemental appropriation.
Kate Daino, another Bright Flight scholar, said that while one semester will not significantly affect her ability to pay tuition, further cuts would.
“If they just cut it back this semester and bring it back I’ll be fine, but if it’s over all four years I am going to have to come up with some extra money to cover that,” she said.
For the students who qualify for the scholarship, Bright Flight can be a central part of why they choose to attend MU.
Daino said that though she looked at schools out of state, she ultimately decided to go somewhere closer to home because the scholarship made it the most feasible option.
“I did decide to go to school in Missouri because of Bright Flight, and that was really my only deciding factor,” she said.
Wilson also said that receiving the scholarship contributed to her choice to choose MU over an out-of-state school.
“I think I kind of got cheated out of the money that I thought I had gotten myself,” she said. “I was really proud of the fact that I had gotten the scholarship in the first place, and then being defunded was a little upsetting.”
As the number of students who qualify for Bright Flight increases, it is unclear whether each recipient will continue to receive the full $3,000 per year.
Since 2014, there has been a nearly 10 percent increase in the number of Missouri high school students who receive the scholarship, and the Department of Higher Education projects that 350 more students will qualify for the scholarship next year.
Though Gov. Eric Greitens proposed a $4 million increase to the state’s scholarship allocation — which would provide nearly the full amount for all 7,035 projected recipients — it isn’t certain whether this will be passed in the state’s budget until it is voted on by the legislature.
Edited by Kyle LaHucik | firstname.lastname@example.org