Another public college in Missouri offers full tuition coverage for low-income students

ST. LOUIS • Northwest Missouri State University announced a new program Thursday from which students have already started to reap rewards.

The program, called the American Dream Grant, covers 100 percent of tuition and fees for students who are eligible for federal need-based financial aid.

The actual American Dream Grant has been around on the Maryville, Mo., campus since 2004, but its mission has seen multiple iterations with the changing tide of student need and state funding. But thanks to a restructuring during the last 18 months, the campus is able to offer students who are eligible to receive any amount of the federal Pell Grant, which maxes out at $5,920 per year.

Tuition and fees at Northwest Missouri State are about $9,570, according to the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

Most Pell grant funding goes to students from households earning less than $30,000 a year, but many families qualify at levels up to twice that or more depending on individual circumstances.

It’s a program that’s similar to one announced by the University of Missouri-Columbia a few weeks ago. That one has an honors college aspect where Pell eligible students who are accepted into the honors college also receive room and board for free. Room and board aren’t part of the package at Northwest.

About one-third of Northwest Missouri State’s students, or 1,931 this year, are Pell eligible, according to Charles Mayfield, Northwest’s director of financial assistance.

Mayfield said the public university is phasing this program in. Starting this fall, Pell Grant-eligible freshman are receiving the grant. Next year, those incoming sophomores and incoming freshmen will receive it — and so forth.

Unlike Mizzou’s program, there’s a component of Northwest Missouri State’s option that includes out-of-state students who meet certain requirements. Mayfield said it made sense since the school draws a lot of students from Nebraska and Iowa.

In addition to being Pell Grant eligible, students must score at least an 18 on their ACT and earn at least a 2.5 high school grade point average.

“Sometimes the smallest thing that gets in the way can prevent students from applying to go to college or continuing through the enrollment process all the way to graduation,” Mayfield said in a statement. “We want to remove as many of those things that might get in the way as possible."