SB 299 - This act modifies the Higher Education Academic Scholarship Program, commonly known as Bright Flight. For a student who graduates from high school during the 2017-2018 school year and after to be eligible for a Bright Flight scholarship, the student must have achieved a score of proficient or advanced on the Algebra I end-of-course assessment and on the English I end-of-course assessment, unless the student's high school has met all of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's waiver requirements. Alternatively, the student may have achieved a qualifying score on the COMPASS exam or ACT. Students with an IEP or Section 504 plan may demonstrate proficiency in mathematics and English by meeting criteria established by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education.
A student must maintain continuous enrollment, which is defined as successful completion of at least twenty-four credit hours during the first twelve month period of enrollment and at least thirty credit hours each subsequent twelve month period of enrollment to receive renewed scholarship benefits. An eligible student who is unable to successfully complete at least twenty-four semester credit hours in a twelve month period may seek a waiver from this requirement due to serious and unusual personal circumstances by appealing to the designated person or committee at the student's institution.
This act expands Bright Flight to include forgivable loans. An eligible student or a renewal student may choose to receive forgivable loans for up to ten semesters or their equivalent. The loan amount must not exceed tuition and required fees, minus the amount of the academic scholarship. In addition, the amount of forgivable loans a student may receive depends on the type of institution a student attends. For a community college, the tuition and required fees will be the out-of-district charge for the highest tuition and required fees as reported each year to the Department of Higher Education by an institution of that sector. At other approved public institutions, the tuition and required fees will be the tuition and required fees reported to the Coordinating Board under the Higher Education Student Funding Act. For an approved private institution or a public vocational technical school, the tuition and required fees will be the same as the tuition and required fees charged by the University of Missouri-Columbia. The loan amount, when combined with all other aid received by the student, must not exceed the standard institutional cost of attendance.
Eligible borrowers may qualify for loan forgiveness through Bright Flight by agreeing to be employed in the state of Missouri within one calendar year of stopping full-time school attendance, including graduate and professional education programs. Eligible borrowers must also enter into a contract with the Coordinating Board and satisfy the terms of the contract to have their loans forgiven.
The Coordinating Board must approve loan forgiveness on an annual basis. Each twelve months of qualifying employment authorizes the forgiveness of the loan or loans received within one academic year. Eligible borrowers that cease to be employed in Missouri and students that elect not to comply with the employment requirements or fail to comply with them, are required to repay all outstanding loan balances with interest.
Each contract between the Coordinating Board and an eligible borrower must include the following: the terms and conditions of the loan and repayment; a stipulation that no interest will be assessed on a forgivable loan while the student is enrolled full time, or part time with approval of the Coordinating Board; a provision that funds for forgivable loans are contingent on an appropriation; and the amount of any interest or penalties assessed if a student fails to maintain eligibility or meet the requirements of the program.
The Coordinating Board has authority to defer interest and principal payments under certain circumstances, including service in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States.
This act is substantially similar to SCS/HCS/HB 272 (2015), HCS/HB 1308 (2014) and a provision contained in SS/SB 494 (2014).