Read Gov. Jay Nixon's proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 closely, and you'll see a set of numbers that can give you pause.
The Democrat wants to expand a program that pays two years' worth of tuition and fees at state community colleges. Students who want an A+ Scholarship have to keep a 2.5 GPA, a 95 percent attendance rate, perform 50 hours of community service, and not have serious discipline problems. But they also have to attend a school that's made certain curriculum changes.
Nixon wants to put a means test in instead - if you're a student at any high school, your family makes less than $55,000, and you meet all the other requirements, you get the scholarship.
Nixon's budget includes $1 million for the scholarship. If the changes to eligibility pass, that could put another 700 students in community college classrooms . But that same budget proposal also slashes the funding for higher education by seven percent.
Nixon says he would not have proposed the additional students if community college officials had not made it clear they could handle the load. And, he says, grant programs will take up the slack.
"It's like the porridge," he says. "It's just right." The $300 million in proposed cuts this year, plus the $1.8 billion in cuts made since 2009, have put the state on sound financial footing.
"We’ve seen other states not paying their bills, raising taxes on folks during the process, not making their payments to schools and hospitals and other things," he says, referencing our eastern neighbor, Illinois. We’ve lived up to our financial obligations, we pay our bills. "