Corbin Smith grinned as he held up a certificate promising him up to $50,000 in college scholarship money to attend the University of Missouri.
The North Kansas City High School senior and three of his classmates didn’t know why they had been called to a surprise event held at their high school gym, but the 18-year-old wasn’t worried.
“We didn’t know what was happening,” Smith said. “But we knew it was going to be good.”
Chancellor Alexander Cartwright unveiled a $40 million fund Monday that will provide 800 Mizzou scholarships over 8 years for students living in the Kansas City area. It will be supported by Mizzou, the University of Missouri System and KC Scholars.
While KC Scholars scholarships are typically awarded to eligible high school juniors in Platte, Clay, Cass and Jackson counties in Missouri, and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas, Smith and his classmates learned they are one of 120 seniors who will be awarded scholarships to attend Mizzou next fall.
“I have three siblings,” Smith said. “Paying for college was always going to be a huge burden to bear.”
The announcement, made at North Kansas City High School, marks yet another Missouri scholarship fund launched in partnership with KC Scholars, a college savings program created in 2016 to help low- and modest-income families complete higher education. The program is funded by the Kauffman Foundation and various community groups.
In November, KC Scholars announced it had partnered with the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the UM System to provide $20 million to help an additional 400 low-and moderate-income students attend UMKC. More than 40 students already use KC Scholars funds to attend the university.
The new Mizzou fund would award students $10,000 per year for up to five years. To cover 800 more scholarships, KC Scholars plans to contribute $20 million, while Mizzou and the UM System will contribute $10 million each to expand the number of students the Kansas City nonprofit can support.
The 800 Mizzou scholarships would be in addition to 500 scholarships KC Scholars has already awarded to Kansas City-area students, including 46 Mizzou students.
“I know first hand how much a college degree can open doors and change lives,” Cartwright said at Monday’s event. “...not being able to pay for college shouldn’t be a barrier for student success.”
Cartwright told The Star that efforts to bring down the cost of higher education are part of a longer-term strategic plan for the university system. This year, UM System President Mun Choi announced the the system would invest $100 million in need-based and merit scholarships. The university has also made other efforts to decrease student costs, such as lowering the price of textbooks.
“This is part of what we believe in as a system, and what we believe in as an institution,” Cartwright told The Star.
To be supported by KC Scholars, recipients must prove a financial need, maintain a 2.5 GPA and are typically high school juniors living in an eligible county.