State loan agency may again fund scholarships

Missouri’s college loan authority has set aside about $30 million in case it’s needed to help pay for state scholarships next school year, state education officials said Wednesday.

The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority provided a similar amount to the state this school year to offset part of the budget cuts made by Gov. Jay Nixon to the Access Missouri scholarship program.

Agency Executive Director Raymond Bayer Jr. said the loan authority board has reserved an additional $30 million for potential use by the scholarship program during the 2011-12 school year. He said Nixon’s office has indicated the money likely will be needed.

Nixon’s administration has said Missouri faces a budget gap of up to $500 million during the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“I know things are getting much better for the state economy, but certainly there is still a shortfall there,” Bayer said. “It’s reasonable to expect the state may need Access Missouri funding supplemented by MOHELA.”

The Access Missouri program is the state’s primary scholarship based on financial need. But because of funding cuts, students this year are receiving less than the amount called for under state law.

Community college students, for example, are getting maximum scholarships of $275, despite a law setting a scholarship range between $300 and $1,000. Students at public universities are getting $950, though the law requires scholarships between $1,000 and $2,150. Students at private institutions are getting $1,900 this year, though state law calls for scholarships of $2,000 to $4,600.

Nixon has scheduled a news conference Thursday in St. Louis to discuss the Access Missouri scholarship amounts for the current school year.

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