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Scholarships, guns, teaching about racism: Missouri higher education bills to watch • Missouri Independent – Missouri Independent

This story was originally published by the Kansas City Beacon.

Expanding state financial aid programs, banning COVID-19 vaccine requirements on campus, and restricting lessons about racism and sexism are just some of the topics of higher education laws being proposed in the Missouri legislature.

The next legislative session starts Jan. 5, but representatives and senators  are already filing the proposed laws that they will debate during the first months of 2022.

There’s no guarantee that any of these bills will be heard in a committee, much less discussed by the full House or Senate or signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson. Legislation can also be amended, sometimes dramatically, at several stages in the process.

But we’ve compiled a list of some of the higher education proposals that have already been filed so you can get a sense of what’s on legislators’ minds.

If you have strong opinions on these issues, you can contact your representative or senator.

Expanding Missouri’s A+ Scholarship Program impact

When considering the sheer number of bills, how students pay for college in Missouri is one of the most popular higher education topics.

Legislators from both parties want to tweak the way the A+ Scholarship Program is administered. The program provides free community college to Missouri high school graduates who complete 50 hours of mentoring younger students and meet other requirements.

Rep. Brenda Shields, a Republican from St. Joseph, filed legislation (HB 1723) that would allow A+ students who graduated with an associate degree or equivalent without using more than $10,000 of A+ funds to use the remaining dollars toward earning a bachelor’s degree.

For example, a student from the Kansas City area who is eligible for the “in-district” tuition rate at Metropolitan Community College would pay $6,960 in tuition for the 60 credit hours needed for an associate degree, plus fees, and so might have funding left over.

Rep. Kevin Windham, a Democrat from Hillsdale in St. Louis County, filed several bills allowing students to receive multiple types of financial aid at the same time.

For example, currently a student could complete the volunteer work for A+ but not receive any funds from the program because they later receive a Federal Pell Grant covering their education costs.

Windham’s legislation (HB 1786) would either provide students some funding on top of federal awards or (HB 1790) apply A+ dollars to education costs before other state, private and federal funding.

Expanding Access Missouri scholarships

The Access Missouri Financial Assistance Program is available to students whose family can contribute $12,000 or less annually, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Windham is also proposing expanding Access Missouri’s impact.

Windham filed legislation that would remove requirements for Access Missouri scholarships to be reduced (HB 1784) by the amount of any A+ scholarships received, expand the number of semesters (HB 1788) a student can receive Access Missouri money and increase award amounts (HB 1787) for the program.

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Source: https://missouriindependent.com/2021/12/17/scholarships-guns-teaching-about-racism-missouri-higher-education-bills-to-watch/

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