JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri college students in private schools will lose nearly half of the money they can receive in a state need-based scholarship under a bill given first-round approval by the House.
Under the legislation, students in four-year schools would receive up to $2,850 through the program whether they attend a public or private institution. Two-year community college students would receive up to $1,300.
The bill covers lower-income students who qualify under federal income standards.
Currently, private school students that qualify get up to $4,600 while those who attend four-year public schools can receive up to $2,150. Two-year community college students receive up to $1,000 under the program currently.
The bill also would allow students to renew their Access Missouri scholarship if they held a grade point average at 2.0 or above. Currently, students must maintain a 2.5 GPA or greater for all four years to keep the scholarship.
The Access Missouri scholarship is a need-based award rather than merit-based, said the bill's sponsor - Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville.
The initial proposal for equaliziation came during house debate from Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia.
Still said she saw her amendment as an "opportunity to equalize scholarships" and pointed out that currently two times more state funds go to private universities.
Rep. Margo McNeil, D-St. Louis County, supported Still's amendment. McNeil said Missouri was fourth in the nation for funding private higher education with public money and 47th in the country for public higher education funding.
The House ultimately passed revised approach that would postpone the implementation date for equalizing the difference between funds available for public and private student until the 2014-15 school year. The passed version also removes the current expiration date for the program.
In order to fill the $500 million budget deficit, Gov. Jay Nixon mentioned removing public scholarships for private institutions entirely, but the House didn't discuss any such measures Tuesday.
The bill requires one more formal House vote before moving to the Senate.