Editorial: A good plan for financial aid
photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration
The Legislature should support the Kansas Board of Regents’ plan to put an additional $50 million toward financial aid for the state’s students.
As part of its budget request, the Board of Regents is seeking $25 million in state funds for a financial aid program. The matching funds would come from university endowments and foundations. Board members approved the $25 million budget request as part of the Regents’ September meeting.
If approved, the program would begin in 2021. Qualifying students would receive up to $5,000 from the scholarship program.
The need-based financial aid would be for those enrolling in everything from two-year technical schools to four-year universities, including private, nonprofit schools that aren’t part of the Regents system.
Historically, the state has not offered need-based student financial aid programs. But amid rising higher education costs and flat state funding, the financial burden of college in Kansas has increasingly shifted to students and their families.
The new Kansas money would come after students already have applied for federal student financial aid programs, Pell Grants and other such programs. “This would be the last dollars under financial aid,” said Elaine Frisbie, vice president of finance and administration with the Regents. “If they have nothing else, this would fill in the rest.”
The new request would build on a more limited financial aid program currently offered by the state. The Kansas Comprehensive Grant program is funded by the state, but it caps financial aid to $1,500 for students who are attending a public university. The program has enough funding to provide grants to about one out of every three eligible students who apply, according to information from the Board of Regents.
Higher education is a critical component of meeting the needs of the state’s future workforce, and Kansas is already behind in the number of two-year and four-year degree holders it will need. In order to fill that gap, the state needs to increase students’ access to degree programs and increasing available financial aid is the most direct way to do that.
The Regents’ plan for a new financial aid program is a smart investment, and lawmakers should support it.