Wolfe presents plan for new Missouri Promise scholarship program

The scholarship aims to improve college enrollment rates of high-achieving Missouri students.

UM System President Tim Wolfe proposed a new statewide scholarship program and a panel discussed academic advising during the Board of Curators’ meeting April 10 at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

New scholarships

Wolfe’s proposal, the new Missouri Promise Scholarship, will reduce tuition for Missouri residents who enroll in Missouri public colleges and universities with a GPA higher than 3.0.

Wolfe said a new cigarette tax would fund the scholarship, which would be available to students attending both two-year and four-year colleges. The Missouri Constitution would have to be amended to create the scholarship and a commission created to oversee the new program.

The plan is based on the Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally scholarship program in Georgia, which has attracted more high-achieving students to in-state colleges since it was created in 1993, Wolfe said.

The push to improve college enrollment rates comes after a report from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said that for every 100 ninth graders in Missouri, only 48 start college and 22 graduate within six years.

“If that doesn’t (make) you pause, I don’t know what does,” Wolfe said. “We have some concerns that we need to address.”

According to the DESE report, 8,000 out of the recent 28,000 Missouri high school graduates chose not to go to college, and 3,000 attended out-of-state colleges. Wolfe said one of the program’s main goals is to keep these students — who he called the “best and brightest” — in Missouri.

Wolfe said the leaders of four-year colleges and universities across Missouri are meeting next week to finalize the plan for the new scholarship. He said they would then need to raise funds and get a petition signed to have the initiative added to the state ballot.


The meeting also included a panel discussion on student advising with representatives from the UM System’s four campuses, including MU’s Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jim Spain.

Kim McNeley, associate vice provost for university college and undergraduate advising at UM-Kansas City, discussed the progress of the system-wide Comprehensive Retention Initiative. The initiative includes an online class schedule builder, an updated degree audit software and an academic mapping planner. She said the class schedule builder, which is available to MU students through MyZou, has made scheduling much easier for students and advisers.

Spain said MU currently has 3,500 students who have less than 100 completed credits and are not yet registered for fall classes. He said 65 percent of these students plan to come back to the university, but they currently cannot afford tuition.

“Finances (are) one of the key issues of students being able to persist to a successful completion of degree,” he said.

Spain said MU administrators are also working to identify enrollment bottlenecks, or classes that are only available to limited numbers of students each semester.

He said MU advisers work to track student progress towards graduation by using graduation contracts, which involve the adviser and dean of the student’s college. They hope to avoid situations where students are close to graduation but fall just short of the requirements.

“It’s about the process, from start to finish,” Spain said.

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