Missouri Senate hears bill to expand work-study

After passing through the House this week, the Senate held a second reading on Rep. Kip Kendrick’s Allan Purdy Work-Study Program bill.

The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill Monday, currently awaiting a final hearing in the Senate, that would expand work-study opportunities for in-state college students to include paid internships at off-campus businesses, non-profits or government agencies in their chosen field.

The AllanPurdy Work-Study Program, introduced by Rep. Kip Kendrick, would allow colleges and universities to contract with off-campus organizations to provide career-relevant positions for students. Schools would subsidize student wages to incentivize businesses and organizations across the state to offer more paid internships while expanding eligibility for the federal work-study award to include students who hold positions off-campus.

“It provides employers the opportunity to provide some training and also identify potential workers for the future,” Kendrick said at Monday’s House debate. “It gives students a foot in the door while also helping them pay down their student debt bills as they’re incurred.”

At MU, approximately 1,200 students currently participate in work-study, all of whom hold on-campus positions and meet a standard of demonstrated financial need. Kendrick said providing off-campus, paid internships would not only provide job training to more students, but it would also allow more students the opportunity to discover if they want to change their career path, sooner rather than later.

“I think it’s going to hopefully smooth the transition from school to work,” Kendrick said at the debate.

The program would be funded from general revenue, an estimated cost of around $100,000 per year as it stands now. The bill outlines 60 percent of the funds must go toward supporting program participants who demonstrate financial need, like campus-work study requires now. Unlike the current federal work-study program, Allan Purdy would allow each school’s financial aid office to use the remaining 40 percent for non-need-based students.

“It gives the financial aid professionals some flexibility,” Kendrick said at the debate. “So financial aid professionals at the school can put 100 percent of it towards students with need, but if they want to, they can also use some of it for people who don’t necessarily show demonstrated need through the FAFSA, but maybe people they’ve identified as maybe needing some additional assistance.”

The Associated Students of the University of Missouri has worked with Kendrick and supported the bill throughout the session. Executive Director Steven Chaffin said ASUM saw the bill as a relevant response to consistent threats of cuts to higher education funding.

“This year, we saw that [Kendrick] was making a really big push for [HB 1275], and so we decided to help out, and we were very excited to see when it passed out of the House last week,” Chaffin said.

Chaffin said the bill is just one of a “package of bills that would help offset the negative things” higher education has seen in the context of funding over the last couple of years.

“We saw this as a way, with college costs rising [and] with tuition rising to help offset those costs,” Chaffin said. “ASUM, broadly speaking, supports anything that will make college more affordable, so we saw this as one thing that would provide students with more opportunities to do so.”

Kendrick said at the debate he would work with the Missouri Department of Higher Education to implement the bill should it pass Senate and be finalized. He has based his model on similar bills passed in Colorado and Montana.

“I really do think that work is going to become more important in part of addressing the issue of student debt because it’s a fairly conservative principle, but it’s also a policy where everybody can agree that getting them the practical experience along with the theory is best,” Kendrick said at the debate.

Kendrick was unavailable for further comment.

Skyler Rossi | srossi@themaneater.com

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