Mississippi Legislature Punishes Students for Remaining In State
April 17, 2017
Filed under Opinion
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At the end of last month, the Mississippi legislature passed a law that would no longer allow Mississippians attending in-state colleges to “stack” state granted financial aid, and this action could lead to unconsidered problems while alleviating little stress on the annual state budget.
High school seniors in Mississippi are eligible to apply for various financial aid programs, including the Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant, the Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant, Higher Education Legislation Plan for Needy Students, the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers & Firemen Scholarship and the Nissan Scholarship.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the cost of attending a public institution in the United States has risen 33 percent between the 2004-5 academic year and the 2014-15 academic year. Before May 30, students were allowed to apply to as many state scholarships as they were eligible to help ease the burden of attending a four year university, but for lawmakers this put too much strain on the state budget.
In 2015 alone, Ballotpedia estimated that the state of Mississippi spent $20.4 billion, and as of 2014 the state had amassed $54.7 billion in debt. In the last financial year it was estimated that $37.6 million was spent through state grants to help students with the burden of paying for college. $37.6 is a mere ~0.07% of $54.7 billion, so it is questionable as to how much of a strain financial aid puts on the state budget as a whole.
The glaring issue that arises when students are stripped of financial aid is that there may be many students who now have to shift to more severe student loans rather than scholarships for attending college, or even deter them from going to college entirely.
The more insidious effect of this law is its encouragement of students to look out of state for a higher education. As many MSMS students are aware, the siren’s song of out of state schools can be very alluring. Out of state schools offer new experiences, diversity and new locations that in-state schools can not bring to the table, but one key aspect keeps over sixty percent of MSMS alumni attending in state colleges: money.
Now that financial aid has been significantly cut for students who remain in state, it would not surprise me if more students decide that they would rather attend an out of state school rather than an in state school if they will end up in debt either way. This will could have a crippling effect on the future of Mississippi, for if all of our best and brightest students begin a mass exodus out of the state no one will be left to help bring industry to Mississippi.
I recognize that I am not a financial specialist. I am merely a student with one foot out of high school and the other into college, but when I look around me I see other students just like me who are scrambling for every penny they can get their hands on to help them pay for a college education. I highly encourage Mississippi legislation to do a little bit more number crunching and think about how taking money from talented students will affect the state in the long run.