Gov. Blunt Proposes New Higher Education Funding
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Dec. 14, 2007) – The number of UCM students receiving needs-based scholarships through Governor Matt Blunt’s Access Missouri Program has grown from 255 to more than 1,800 since he took office and could keep growing. At least, that’s if the Missouri legislature approves a comprehensive higher education package that he has proposed for Missouri students.
Blunt spoke about his plans to increase scholarship funding during a visit to UCM Thursday, Dec. 13. The governor held a press conference outside the UCM Office of Student Financial Services, where he called for another massive increase in needs-based scholarships, as well as additional increases in funding for Missouri colleges and universities and funding for a new health care education program for students.
Education the Highest Priority
“When I was a candidate for governor, I pledged that education would be my highest priority. Education is the most important, critical and significant investment that we can make in our future. And to ensure future prosperity, Missouri students must have access to the knowledge and skills they need to compete in a very competitive global economy,” Blunt told the gathering.
Blunt said his higher education plan will provide $100 million for scholarships. This $27.5 million increase, when combined with the governor’s past increases, means that needs-based scholarships will have quadrupled since he took office. He stressed this 400 percent increase in college scholarships through the Access Missouri Scholarship program “levels the playing field” for scholarship applicants and ensures that Missouri students with greatest financial need receive aid.
|Kari Gai, a UCM education major, joined Gov. Matt Blunt in announcing his proposal for increased state funding for higher education scholarships.|
Students Recognize Potential Benefits
Following the governor’s presentation, UCM education major Kari Gai commended Blunt for supporting scholarships for students, saying she was “very grateful” for receiving an award that’s helped her financially.
“On behalf of the 1,800 students at the University of Central Missouri who are receiving this Access Missouri award, I would like to say “Thank you very much,” Gai told the governor.
An Educated Workforce Means Economic Growth
University President Aaron Podolefsky said Access Missouri is providing the means for more of the state’s students to attend colleges and universities. As graduates, they are a valuable asset to the state.
“Research shows that the size of a state’s workforce with a college degree largely determines its economic prosperity. The Access Missouri program is not only benefiting our students, but also contributing to Missouri’s economic success,” he said.
More UCM Students May Access Financial Aid
UCM undergraduate students will benefit from a total of $2.3 million in Access Missouri grant assistance during the 2007-08 school year, according to Phil Shreves, director of student financial assistance. He noted that this total far exceeds the $500,000 in Charles Gallagher and Missouri College Guarantee assistance that was received by less than 250 students each year before Access Missouri.
Another student who benefited from the governor’s scholarship plan is Brandon Smith, a senior majoring in sports management at UCM. Although he was not part of the formal presentation, he offered the following comments about the needs-based scholarship effort.
“The $1,500 Access Missouri grant I received this year had a major impact on helping me pay my educational and living expenses at the University of Central Missouri. Also, I didn’t have to borrow as much loan money this year as I’ve had in the past. I very sincerely appreciate what Governor Blunt has done for me and many other UCM students.”
Statewide Totals Double
Statewide, 16,400 students received needs-based scholarships last year. This year, that number has more than doubled.
In addition to helping students financially, the governor will recommend an additional $40 million in direct funding for Missouri colleges and universities in next year’s budget, a 4.4 percent increase from last year. The recommendation will bring total increases in direct funding to nearly $103 million.
With the governor’s recommended increases, funding at UCM will have grown by $2.4 million for a total of $6 million in increases since January 2005. These increases have taken place after several years of legislative budget cuts and declining state support for higher education in the earlier part of the decade.
On top of these increases, the governor’s budget recommendation will include $13.4 million to support expanding health programs throughout the state. The investment will help expand education opportunities for Missouri students pursuing careers in health-related fields and will ultimately expand Missourian’s access to care.
The additional $13.4 million will create new opportunities for 171 more students at four-year institutions and 146 students at two-year institutions. Missouri students will benefit from increased access to the health-related professions, and all Missourians will benefit through a greater supply of health professionals, according to Blunt.