Less than a week after announcing hefty cuts to Missouri higher education, Gov. Jay Nixon traveled to St. Louis to promote college scholarships for urban kids in low-income families.
Speaking to a gathering of school officials at St. Louis Community College's new Harrison Center in North City, Nixon praised a State education program that since 1997 has awarded thousands of successful high school students with scholarships that pay for the first two years of community college. But the governor also criticized the way those scholarships are currently doled out; only students from a select group of higher-achieving schools are eligible, leaving smart, disciplined students from low-performing schools empty-handed.
During his speech, Nixon proposed to expand access to these "A+" scholarships to all students from low-income families, regardless of where they go to school.
It was interesting to compare the slash-n-burn governor of last Wednesday's State of the State address with the fund-more-programs governor of yesterday, especially considering that Nixon is cutting money from the higher-educational pool only to put more money right back into it, albeit from the other end. It was also good to see the governor focus on an urban issue -- most of the newly proposed scholarships would go to kids in St. Louis and Kansas City -- which is not something he's spent much focus on of late.
In this case, says Nixon, the issue boils down to fairness. "This proposal is both simple and profound," he said during his speech. "Every student deserves the opportunity to go to college." He called the scholarship program "a dream come true."
The state budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $1 million to fund the expansion, which Nixon says would send an additional 700 kids to college. If passed into law, the new proposal would cover students whose families make up to $55,000. The students would have to maintain a 2.5 GPA and good attendance record.
Nixon has taken flak from some pundits who call him a "closet Republican" for his unwillingness to cut the budget by raising taxes. Asked about that assertion, Nixon responded: "It's a little like the porridge. Some say it's too hot, some say it's too cold. Some think it's just right. I think just right is what we got."
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