For the state fiscal year of 2021, the Missouri General Assembly appropriated $20.1 million for the Bright Flight Program. However, effective as of July 22, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson restricted $6.5 million of those funds due to current economic conditions.
This reduces the original award of $3,000 per year to $1,800.
Missouri State University Director of Financial Aid, Rob Moore, said these cuts were not made out of malice, but because Missouri's state constitution requires the budget to be balanced.
“Due to the unprecedented events that our nation is currently enduring and the economic downturn affecting Missouri, the governor has exercised his authority and cut over $450 million from the 2021 (educational) state budget,” Moore said.
$28 million of which came from four-year higher education institutional appropriations.
Moore explained this was not within MSU’s Office of Financial Aid’s control, and they understand the burden this places on students.
Rachel Miller, a senior communication science and disorders major, is a Bright Flight recipient impacted by the budget reduction.
“This semester alone Bright Flight got cut $1,200, (MSU’s) College of Health and Human Services charged an extra $300 just to be in it (the college) and my online class is $250 more expensive,” said Miller.
Miller said these changes added $1,750 in expenses for her upcoming fall semester, which can create a make-or-break situation for many college students.
“The issue at hand is that I had to figure all of that out myself, and I did not get any information on any of those extra costs,” Miller said.
Sydney Neal, a senior mathematics education major, is also a Bright Flight recipient and said while she is grateful she receives aid, every dollar counts.
“I pay for everything on my own, so I typically take all my scholarship money and then take out the full amount of loans possible, which is not only how I pay for school, but how I afford to live,” said Neal.
Neal is a math tutor at the Bear CLAW, and with her campus job being up in the air and online tuition at a higher cost, she said it is frustrating to see the money she was guaranteed be taken away.
In order to make up the difference, Neal said she will have to explore other places for financial assistance.
Moore said the Office of Financial Aid reached out to financial aid directors at other post-secondary institutions across the state through the Missouri Association of Student Financial Aid Personnel, but none of the respondents have indicated an ability to make up the additional costs.
“One possible silver lining to this situation is that if the economy does better than projected and the governor releases the restricted funds, the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development has indicated that mid-year increases may be made to these award amounts,” Moore said.
For information regarding the Bright Flight program, visit the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development website.