JEFFERSON CITY - Students of higher education feuded over who should receive more money at a legislative committee meeting Tuesday.
Officials and students from both public and private institutions testified before the House Higher Education Committee on a bill moving money that can be allocated to private college students to those that attend public universities.
"Our goal is to make this even and equitable across the board," said the bill's sponsor Rep. Gayle Kingery, R-Poplar Bluff. "We do not begrudge our private institutions. However, especially in the economy today, we'd like to equalize these amounts."
A large group of private students voiced their opposition to the bill. Some said they think the bill provides money to Missouri students unfairly because students at private institutions pay more than those attending public institutions.
"I started realizing how ridiculous this bill is," Austin Sailors, a student at College of the Ozarks said. "I'm starting to think alumni at MU wrote this bill."
Currently, students in four-year and two-year public institutions receive a maximum of $2,150 and $1,000 respectively. Students at private institutions can receive up to $4,600.
If the bill passes, the change would not be implemented until the 2014-2015 school year. Under the proposed legislation, students at four-year and two-year private and four-year institutions would then receive $2,850. Students attending two-year public institutions would receive $1,250.
Although students currently in private institutions would not endure the decrease, many said their siblings would have less to pay for higher-priced schools. Sailors said implementing the bill later than now is a scheme to gain more support for Kingery's bill.
"The whole waiting for four years is a ploy to shut us students up," Sailors said.
University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton said there is a disparity in the distribution of public funds to private institutions. He said while students in private institutions account for 29 percent of the program's participants, they receive nearly 52 percent of the program's funds.
"I can think of no other program that awards students to go to a more expensive institution," Deaton said.
When it comes to providing funds for private institutions, Deaton said Missouri ranks fourth in the nation, but ranks 37th for public education.
Amanda Shelton -- an MU student who is Senate Speaker for the Missouri Students Association -- said the $700 increase in the public scholarship might seem small, but it would offset costs and allow students to focus more on their studies, instead of working extra jobs or hours to pay for education.
"This $700 is very real to us," Shelton said. "This $700 would have allowed me to quit a second job and take another class."
The Higher Education Commissioner, Robert Stein, testified against the legislation on behalf of his department. He said he had never seen the commission so split over a decision. The commission voted 5-1 against the bill in their recommendation to the Higher Education Committee.
"They believe more process and dialog should occur before changing the law," Stein said.
Marianne Inman, president of Central Methodist University, said students at public schools receive more money from the state in separate funding. At the University of Missouri, she said the government appropriates $8,845 per students. With the additional Access funds, she said the amount would total to around $11,000.
"That is well more than twice the amount for students at the private institutions," Inman said.
The Higher Education Committee will meet next week to discuss the bill.