JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — In a story Sept. 6 about proposed legislation on a Missouri scholarship program, The Associated Press reported erroneous information about who can receive the A+ Scholarship and whether all recipients' tuition would be covered. The Department of Higher Education says all students will be reimbursed for tuition. It also says a new agency rule means those who are legally present in the U.S. can receive the scholarship.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Few immigrants at risk of proposed Missouri scholarship ban
Proposed ban on Missouri college scholarship likely would impact few immigrant students
By SUMMER BALLENTINE
JEFFERSCON CITY, Mo. (AP) — When Missouri lawmakers meet later this month to consider banning a state scholarship from going to immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents, there could be more legislators in favor of the ban than there are students that would be directly affected.
The legislation, which would require that students be citizens or permanent residents in order to receive the A+ Scholarship, was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. Legislators would need a two-thirds vote in each chamber to override him.
Immigrant advocates and state education officials have struggled to pinpoint the exact number of immigrant students that would lose access to the scholarship if Nixon's veto is overturned. The scholarship provides two years of free tuition at a community college.
Not all schools have requested reimbursement from the state for students who received A+ Scholarships this summer, so it's still unknown how many immigrants without permanent resident status received the scholarship, Department of Higher Education spokeswoman Liz Coleman said. The summer semester was the first since the department created a rule that took effect in March that meant immigrant students legally present in the U.S. could receive the scholarship. That applies to immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents as children but deemed lawfully present under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Coleman said the agency estimates that 200 to 300 of those immigrants might have enrolled in college courses this fall. Of that pool, only students who met attendance, grade-point average and community service requirements would be eligible. But it's unlikely that all of them would go to a public community college instead of a four-year university, private school or out-of-state institution.
While lawmakers and advocates dispute how many, if any, students would suddenly lose access to the scholarship if the bill becomes law, there appears to be consensus that it would only be a few.
Lawmakers are to convene Sept. 16 to consider overriding the veto. Earlier this year, the Republican-led House passed the measure 108-38, which would be only one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed for an override. More than a dozen representatives were absent. Senators originally passed the bill 25-8. It takes 23 votes to override a veto in that chamber.
Although the bill's potential impact is limited, it has fueled hours of debate among lawmakers and stoked tension with Nixon, who has publicly called on the Legislature to let his veto stand.
Supporters of the bill say it's unfair for students without legal status to receive the scholarship when money for the program already is tight. The Higher Education Department announced students receiving the A+ Scholarship had to chip in for some of the cost of their spring classes because there wasn't enough to pay all recipients in full, although the agency later said there was enough money for those students.
Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, a Shell Knob Republican who handled the Senate bill in the House, said enacting the legislation now will prevent potentially steeper costs for certain immigrant students later. He said he expects additional students would apply for the scholarship once more colleges and immigrants are made aware of the department's new rule.
"This is not just a temporary reprieve to allow one class of students this exemption," Fitzpatrick said. "This is a perpetual, ongoing thing that's going to cost more and more and more money."
Opponents of the legislation say the ban makes it even more challenging to afford college for such immigrants, who can't access federal financial aid or scholarships. Faith Sandler, executive director of the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, said it's difficult to know how many students would benefit from the scholarship, but she agreed that the number likely would increase as more colleges and students realize it's an option.
Sandler said that some immigrant students now might not even bother applying for the scholarship because of the uncertainty of whether lawmakers will ban it. Some likely are moving to other states that offer more expansive financial aid options for them.
"From the standpoint of the health of our state our economy and our students, to say only that many people will be affected is misleading," Sandler said.