Missouri has a new Commissioner of Higher Education who has a plan to expand the reach of financial aid to more students. And though we know no details of his plan, it apparently involves providing a bit less financial aid to individual students to allow for more students to have access to higher education. We hope his plan gives equal footing to students from middle-class families.
Gregory Fitch, who started work Monday, wants more higher education financial aid to be made available especially to minorities and low-income families. And though we certainly agree with that goal, we caution that students from middle-class families are often virtually ignored when it comes to financial aid.
Of course, some of the problem is the definition of low-income and middle-class. We could debate all day long what level of family income should be used in those definitions. But regardless, we know of too many hard-working, middle-class families who struggle and sacrifice to provide school funding and those sacrifices should be considered when it comes time to dole out dollars.
No one should be shut out of the potential for a college education. We must assure that any student who has the academic ability and the personal responsibility to succeed in college be given that opportunity. And if it takes more tax dollars to assure that, then that is what we should do.
But at the same time, we need to be careful and not isolate all of our financial aid dollars to just the lower rung of the financial ladder. Those in the middle are just as deserving. Often it's the students of middle-class income who make the most sacrifices to gain a higher education.
We know the Missouri Legislature will soon struggle with funding issues that impact each and every resident of this state. The key is to take our limited tax resources and stretch them as far as possible. And part of that formula should be to recognize that the people who provide this tax base deserve equal consideration in all aspects along with those unable to provide any tax support. That includes health care as well as education.