College students in Missouri receiving bare minimum in scholarships

Are you going to school on a scholarship?

Students receiving certain scholarships at Missouri colleges and universities this year will be getting near the bare minimum allowed under state law.

The Department of Higher Education says it expects about 60,000 students to receive Access Missouri scholarships this year.

Those at public universities will receive $1,000, which is the minimum amount set in state law. Students at private universities will be able to get $2,070. And those at community colleges will receive scholarships of $300 to $450 a year.

Because of a tight state budget, the scholarship levels are all well below the maximum allowed under state law.

"They're estimating about $1,500 a year now, instead of per semester. I've had to max out my loans because of it, and it will hit me later, but right now, I'm just scraping by," said Culver Stockton Junior Nina Chirino.

"Unfortunately, we're seeing them take out more loans," said Tina Wiseman.

Wiseman is the financial aid director at Culver Stockton College. She says the Access Missouri Scholarship hasn't been awarded at the yearly mandated amount of $4,600 for about 4 years now.

"We try to subsidized as much as we can for our students. The combination of the two are making it work for now," said Wiseman.

But it's becoming harder to do as more and more students apply for the Access Missouri scholarship.

"With a larger pool of students eligible, and the decreased amount of funds, then that even takes the funding to a lower level," said Hannibal LaGrange University's Financial Aid Director Brian Baumgardner.

Jessica Deters is a senior at Culver Stockton. She says she's made it this far because of her scholarship.

"I've signed up on the Access Missouri site and petitioned for more money. Because without this, I wouldn't be able to go to Culver," said Deters. "I'm actually really nervous because I graduate in November. So I've only got a few months left and these loans are going to be coming due pretty soon, and I'm nervous, but it comes with the territory."

Senior Brian Starks is in the same boat over at Hannibal LaGrange University.

"Currently, with that scholarship, it's kind of been a test trial for me to find other funds and other scholarships to make up for that," said Starks.

After years of looking for financial aid, he has some advice for students facing the same struggles.

"Definitely try to get other scholarships your school can offer you. I know it can be difficult, because it can be based off your academic scores, but try to get in and get the best you can out of that," said Starks.

Financial aid directors at both schools say this decrease in funds will really hurt the economy. They say fewer students will be able to attend college and that reduces the number of qualified people in the workforce.

More than 7,000 students will get merit-based Bright Flight scholarships. But their amount of $1,750 will only be slightly more than half the maximum of $3,000 allowed by Missouri law.