Gubernatorial candidates plan to make college affordable

Both plans will make two-year colleges free to people who qualify.

As an uncertain economy raises questions about college affordability, Missouri's gubernatorial candidates, both MU graduates, have different ideas about funding for colleges and universities in Missouri.

Republican candidate U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof's plan is called the Missouri Prosperity Initiative.

If implemented, Hulshof's plan would increase scholarship amounts and expand eligibility. It would also designate a portion of the funding for math and science scholarships.

The plan would enhance training in biotechnology, math, chemistry and engineering and create a partnership between private and public interests that would fortify current degree programs in these areas as well as help in creating new ones.

Hulshof's plan would require businesses and philanthropic interests to match state contributions to education 2-to-1.

"Students wanting access to the very best education in these fields won't have to go somewhere else," Hulshof campaign spokesman Scott Baker said. "They can find it right here in Missouri."

Some Republicans feel Hulshof's plans are better suited for Missourians.

"His plans aren't big government plans," MU College Republicans Chairman Jonathan Ratliff said. "His plans are for the common man."

Democratic candidate Attorney General Jay Nixon's campaign said Hulshof's plan would not help middle-class Missourians.

"The Congressman has voted against Pell Grants and scholarships, and his plan would do nothing to help middle-class families afford a college education," Nixon campaign spokesman Oren Shur said.

Shur also cites Hulshof's support of the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative, which sold assets from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority to fund projects at Missouri colleges and universities, as a reason to support Nixon's higher education plans.

As part of his higher education platform, Nixon proposed the Missouri Promise, which builds in the existing A+ Schools Program.

As it stands, the A+ program allows Missouri students who commit 50 hours of tutoring and receive a 2.5 GPA to attend a two-year community college or technical school for free. Under Nixon's higher education plan, Missouri high school seniors who meet the A+ program criteria will sign contracts with the state to obtain tuition-free education. By signing this contract, the student agrees to attend a community college for two years, then continue his or her education at a state school or college, tuition-free.

Nixon's plan is aimed toward middle-class Missouri families.

"Jay's plan will put the dream of a college education within reach for every middle-class student, without the nightmare of never-ending debt," Shur said.

Under the terms of the Missouri Promise, the student agrees to maintain a 3.0 GPA while in community college, commit to 50 hours a year of community service for every year they receive scholarship money and to apply for all federal and state financial aid available, among other criteria.

"This plan rewards students with good grades and good behavior who give back to the community with community service," said Nate Kennedy, Young Democrats of Missouri College Federation Chairman.

The estimated cost for Nixon's program would be $61 million.

Hulshof's campaign has criticized the plan, saying it would only allow for its participants to attend community colleges.

"Jay Nixon's plan encourages students to attend community college, which isn't bad, but it ends there," Baker said.


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