Students to lawmakers Bright Flight unfair to black and poor students

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JEFFERSON CITY - Dozens of college students visited lawmakers Wednesday with documents they say prove Missouri's Bright Flight scholarship program is "inequitable" from a racial and socio-economic standpoint.

Marlama Bowden, a current college student, said she feels scholarships are only going to wealthier school districts, leaving out rural schools who need the money the most. 
"College is an opportunity that everyone should get, no matter if their family is rich or if their family is poor,"  Bowden said. "Regardless if they have good test taking skills or not."

Each student brought a fact sheet to as many legislators they could talk to, identifying the number of students in each representative's district that received a scholarship. The fact sheets included a breakdown of racial statistics. 

A peer-reviewed study was published in 2014 found 2 percent of Bright Flight recipients were black, while 89 percent were white.

Karissa Anderson, manager of advocacy and policy research for the Active Advocacy Coalition, said she wants to see all of the money taken out of Bright Flight and given to Access Missouri, which is a state need-based program designated to provide financial assistance to undergraduate residents. 

"We would like to see scholarship dollars go to students who have demonstrated financial need," Anderson said. "For a lot of students that we work with the question is: 'Can I go to college?' and for a lot of students receiving the Bright Flight scholarship it's 'Where should I go?'"
Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said he wants there to be accessible education to everyone and he doesn't want to do that by cutting funding from existing programs, like Bright Flight. 
"I think it's certainly important we provide access for diverse group of students," Webber said. "One thing I don't want to do is cut from one group of students to help other students. I think we should be helping all students."
Webber said he would like to see other pieces of legislation that result in saving money which could be used to fund programs that need it, like higher education. 
"Doing things like that we can increase access to everybody without cutting access to anybody," Webber said. 
For more information on the allegations made against Bright Flight, read here.