The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 14, 2013

Federal sequester to affect financial aid for MSSU students

By Emily Younker

JOPLIN, Mo. — The automatic spending cuts that took effect nationwide on March 1 as a result of the federal sequester have started to trickle down to Missouri Southern State University, administrators said Thursday.

Fees on federal Stafford loans increased from 1 percent to 1.05 percent for all new loans after March 1, while fees on PLUS loans increased from 4 percent to 4.2 percent, said Darren Fullerton, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management.

Funds for supplemental educational opportunity grants and federal work-study grants likely will be cut by 5 percent next year, amounting to a total annual reduction of $18,000 for students eligible for those grants, he said.

Funding for TEACH grants, which assist students who plan to become teachers in a high-need field or in a low-income area, is “uncertain” for the next two years, Fullerton said, and MSSU will not award any new funds for the grants during those years.

The budget for TRIO programs could be reduced by 5 percent, which amounts to about $18,000 annually, he said. TRIO programs at MSSU include Upward Bound, a program for local high school students who are from low-income families or who will be first-generation college students, and Educational Talent Search, which encourages qualified sixth- through 12th-graders to enroll in post-secondary education.

The discontinuation of tuition assistance for new students by the Army, Marines and Coast Guard could result in the loss of financial aid for dozens of MSSU students, Fullerton said. The university’s Show-Me Gold program, which will give students the opportunity to become commissioned officers in the National Guard through classroom instruction, laboratories and physical conditioning training, is set to launch in August and so far is not affected by the sequester, he said.

Fullerton told the Board of Governors on Thursday that the sequester likely will be felt by many on campus.

“Even though many of these are small dollar amounts individually, when you add them up, they have a significant impact on our university and on our students,” he said.

Fullerton said his office will begin working with affected students to try to find alternative options for financial aid.

“We’re going to try to help them as much as we can,” he said.

The board will reconvene this morning for its annual retreat, which will be held on the MSSU campus. Topics to be covered include:

• An update from Noel-Levitz, a higher education consulting firm hired by the university to determine how MSSU can attract, retain and graduate more students.

• Steps of redesigning and blending courses.

• Budget priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

• A report from the Shared Governance Committee.

• A review of the university’s mission and a question-and-answer session with President Bruce Speck.

Board retreat

THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS’ annual retreat is slated for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in rooms 309 and 310 of Billingsly Student Center. It is open to the public.