download ferguson commission report (PDF)

Enhancing College Access and Affordability

The expert testimony, research, scholarship, and lived experience collected by the Commission revealed the following:

  • As a New York Times article puts it, “Yes, college is worth it, and it’s not even close. For all the struggles that many young college graduates face, a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable” (Leonhardt, 2014). Studies have confirmed the increased earnings associated with having a college degree, including one that found that the true, long-term cost of a college degree is actually negative $500,000 (Autour, 2014). In other words, college is financially a net positive and beneficial in the long term (Autour, 2014).
  • Minority high schools students, namely Black and Hispanic students, are less likely to go to college than their White counterparts in Missouri (Lumina Foundation, 2013). Among adults age 25-64 in Missouri, 37 percent of White individuals have a college degree (Lumina Foundation, 2013). Approximately  25 percent and 23 percent of Black and Hispanic individuals can claim the same (Lumina Foundation, 2013).
  • Access Missouri is a statewide needs-based scholarship program designed to help students of low-income families. Currently, approximately 50,000 students receive an Access Missouri scholarship annually  (KY3, 2015).
  • When it was first established in 2007, the average Access Missouri award was set to cover 22 percent of the tuition and fees at four-year independent institutions, while covering 25 percent at four-year public institutions (KY3, 2015). In 2010, Governor Jay Nixon cut funding for the program by $50 million (KY3, 2015).
  • In 2015 Gov. Nixon announced an increase in scholarship amounts to $850 from $660 for students attending participating 2-year institutions, and an increase to $1,850 from $1,500 for those attending participating 4-year institutions in the 2016 fiscal year (KY3, 2015). This level of funding still falls short of the $95 million in annual funding allocated at the program’s birth in 2007 and is insubstantial in light of average annual in-state tuition rates of $8,400 (public) and $26,500 (private) at four-year institutions in Missouri (The College Board, 2015).
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students are individuals  who were brought to the U.S. as young children and are undocumented, through no fault of their own. They are legally allowed to live, work and study in the U.S. under a change in the Obama Administration’s enforcement policy for undocumented immigrants called DACA. As of March 2014, 673,417 young people had applied to the program and 553,197 had been approved (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2014). As of 2013, this included 2,026 applicants and 1,203 approved individuals in Missouri (Dews, 2013).
  • The Missouri Legislature recently passed two bills pertaining to students in the DACA program. The first denied DACA students access to the state’s A+ Scholarship Program, which covers tuition for community and technical college students (House Bill 224, 2015). Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed that bill (Nixon, 2015). The second bill was the state budget bill (House Bill 3, 2015). Lawmakers inserted a rule in the introduction of the bill stating that colleges and universities must charge DACA students the highest rate of tuition available (i.e., the out-of-state or international rate) (House Bill 3, 2015).
  • While Governor Nixon’s veto of the bill precluding DACA students from receiving A+ scholarships grants a degree of confidence to 2-year colleges that want to welcome undocumented students, the future for DACA students wishing to attend four-year colleges is hazier. As reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, several state legislators have warned colleges and universities not to act against the will of the Legislature (Addo, 2015). Some schools have taken that warning to heart and charged undocumented students the highest tuition possible (Addo, 2015). The University of Missouri-St. Louis is among those who will not extend tuition benefits or state scholarships to undocumented students. This means that students who were expecting to pay $9,500 in tuition saw their bill increase to $25,000. (Addo, 2015)

These findings prompted the Commission to draft several calls to action for improved access and affordability to college for students in Missouri.

To that end, the Commission issues the calls to action below.

Take Action

Support great school climates

While policy changes are important to changing the landscapes of our schools, it is only effective when paired with culture changes. Engage with your child’s school to facilitate a great school climate and culture for all students, teachers and administrators. This can take the form of attending PTA meetings, starting discussion groups with other parents, or…

Tags Youth at the CenterAligning Resources to Foster Innovation and Build Capacity
Take Action 

Suggested Reading List

Gonzales, R. and Bautista-Chavez, A. (2014) Two years and counting:Assessing the growing power of DACA. Retrieved from: About Access Missouri. Retrieved from:

Leonhardt, D. (2014). Is college worth it? Clearly, new data say. The New York Times. Retrieved from:


  1. Addo, K (2015). Missouri in stalemate over aid to undocumented students. St. Louis Post Dispatch. Retrieved from:
  2. Autour, D. (2014). Skills, education, and the rise of earnings inequality among the” other 99 percent”. Retrieved from:
  3. Dews, F. (2013). Interactive map of DACA applicants by state. Brookings Institute. Retrieved from:
  4. House Bill 224, 98th General Assembly. (2015). Retrieved from:
  5. House Bill 3, 98th General Assembly. (2015). Retrieved from:
  6. About Access Missouri. Retrieved from:
  7. KY3. (2015) Scholarship amounts to increase for Access Missouri students. Retrieved from:
  8. Leonhardt, D. (2014). Is college worth it? Clearly, new data say. The New York Times. Retrieved from:
  9. Lumina Foundation. (2013) A stronger Missouri through higher education. Retrieved from:
  10. Nixon, J.W. (2015). Letter to the Secretary of State of Missouri:Vetoing SB 224. Retrieved from:
  11. The College Board (2015). Tuition Fees by Sector and State over Time. Retrieved from:
  12. The Institute for College Access & Success. (2014). Project on student debt:State by state data. Retrieved from:
  13. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2014). Number of I-821D, consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals by fiscal year, quarter, intake, biometrics and case status:2012-2014. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved from: