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University of Missouri-Kansas City Works to Help Low-Income Students

UMKC spokesman John Martellaro said the university takes its commitment to serve the community “very seriously.”UMKC spokesman John Martellaro said the university takes its commitment to serve the community “very seriously.”

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The University of Missouri-Kansas City, which was once among the more costly public universities for low-income students, has created a new grant program to help those students pay for their education.

Two years ago, UMKC was one of the 10 most expensive public universities in the country for low-income students, according to a recent report by the New America Foundation, which said universities at the top of that list were expecting the poorest families to pay more than half their income to send their students to college.

Students from families with household incomes of less than $30,000 were paying an average net price of $16,798 a year to attend UMKC, The Kansas City Star reported. The report used 2010-11 numbers, the latest available from the federal government. Average net price is the cost of college including tuition, fees, room and board, books and other expenses. Grants and scholarships aren’t included.

UMKC officials didn’t dispute the numbers in the report, but pointed out that they had already moved to address the issue in part by creating a new grant program.

“We exist to serve this community, and it is something we take very seriously,” spokesman John Martellaro said.

The university’s new Advantage Grant is applied to the tuition cost for Pell Grant-eligible, in-state undergraduates who maintain a 2.7 grade-point average. In the last two academic years, the program has given $316,514 to help those students an average of $1,358 per student.

That’s been enough to move UMKC down the list of costliest public colleges for low-income students, but it hasn’t been enough to get the school to the $10,000-a-year range, which is what New America Foundation said should be the goal. Students can be expected to cover that amount through federal loans and jobs, the foundation said.

But Jennifer DeHaemers, vice chancellor for enrollment management, said the report reflects a time of transition in UMKC’s support for low-income students. In 2008-09, UMKC’s average net price for low-income students was $14,262. The next year, it was $14,740. In 2010-11, the price jumped more than $2,000.

One reason for the increase, DeHaemers said, is that UMKC had been receiving about $1 million a year as part of a program with banks that made loans to UMKC students. The bank program ended in 2009.

“We knew that would create a problem,” DeHaemers said.

Jasmyne Glenn, 19, of St. Louis, will be a UMKC sophomore in the fall. She said her financial package, which included the Advantage Grant, was affordable.

“I think I had to come up with $300 my first year,” Glenn said.

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