Blunt touts scholarships, aid

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt speaks to the media about SB 389 March 23 in the Universitys financial aid office. The bill is currently stalled in the Senate.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt speaks to the media about SB 389 March 23 in the University’s financial aid office. The bill is currently stalled in the Senate.

Rebecca Watts

If Senate Bill 389 passes in the General Assembly, lawmakers say higher education will become more accessible and affordable for Missouri students.

“Right now it is at a standstill but we hope somehow they will come to some compromise,” said Dr. Julio León, University president. “We have a lot of time, but they say that in politics an hour is an eternity.”

León said opposition to the bill is based on the fear that stem cell research might be conducted in buildings the would fund promoted, and it’s a firm stand. Another stand against the bill is the belief the bill might weaken MOHELA’s ability to give loans to students. However, León said “that’s really not true.”

On March 23, in the Financial Aid department, Missouri Southern received a visit from Gov. Matt Blunt. He spoke to members of the Board of Governors, students, faculty and the media promoting the measure.

“It is critical to pass this legislation,” Blunt said. “We need to get this matter to a vote.”

For Southern, the stakes are high if the bill is not passed.

“Missouri Southern is committed to SB 389, I know there is a little bit of selfishness there,” León said during Blunt’s visit.

Blunt said he wished the process was a quick one, but he would be happy with any results before the end of legislative session.

“I know from your perspective it needs to be done yesterday,” he said.

After Blunt promoted the necessity of SB 389, April Feller, senior accounting and Spanish major, told the group how the bill would help her.

“This would allow me to turn some of my student loan money into scholarships,” she said.

Feller is a non-traditional student with a family of three. She said financial aid is the reason she can go to college. Another student, Sarah Hiatt, freshman undecided major, said paying for college on her own is a difficult task.

“It was hard for me to have two jobs and go to school and then worry about all my bills,” she said. “I’m still trying to work out my financial aid. I think it helps completely, even with the aid it’s hard for me to do it by myself right now.”

In addition to promoting the bill, Blunt spoke on Missouri Access. Blunt said this is a scholarship program that would level the playing field for students and ensure the students who need financial aid the most will receive it. He said this would answer the call to not only an estimated 12,992 students, but “thousands” of families. This new program would help families in making long-run plans because there would be an additional estimated 19,000 scholarships, making the opportunities more reliable. For Southern, the 98 students receiving the current aid would increase to an estimated 889 students

“Access will be based on one simple formula, can the family pay for college?” Blunt said.