Westminster Student Leads Statewide Organization to Protect College Scholarships
This summer, Westminster College student Olivia Wilson was appointed President of the Keep Me In College Coalition — a student-run organization that fights to protect state-funded scholarships and grants in Missouri.
The senior from Kansas City, MO, received her appointment after testifying in April against a bill that would force Bright Flight Scholarship recipients to live in the state of Missouri for four consecutive years after graduating from college.
“Thousands of students in Missouri rely on Access Missouri, Bright Flight, and Federal Pell Grants to be able to afford college,” Wilson explains. “However, each year there is conversation about decreasing or even cutting those scholarships altogether.”
The bill — known as HB 2408 — would have required scholarship recipients who move out of state to pay back their Bright Flight money immediately. As a result, the scholarship would become a loan-forgiveness program. That potential change made the scholarship seem shaky to Wilson, who decided to attend school in Missouri primarily because of Bright Flight. “I’m not in a position to be able to pick up and leave if I have to sign on to that program,” Wilson says. “Some people may be, but I’m not.”
After the hearing, the bill did not pass out of committee, and advocacy opportunities flew at Wilson. The Missouri Department of Education asked her to be a student representative with the Student Aid Policy Task Force, she was hired as a paid intern at Gamble & Schlemeier Governmental Consultants in Jefferson City, MO, and she received her presidential post with the Keep Me in College Coalition — a position held previously by a Westminster student and recent graduate, ChristiAna Dunham.
Wilson explains that the three thousand-member coalition is vital for students’ opinions to be heard by legislators. “It was made evident during that hearing that this is often a perspective that is missing during the policy-making process.”
The double Political Science and Transnational Studies major obviously does not shrink from responsibility. Wilson says in her new role as Coalition President, she assisted in forming the new Student Ambassador Program, which will be found at all participating colleges, including Westminster, as early as September.
Wilson also hopes to continue interning in the governmental affairs field this fall while keeping up with her studies. In addition, she is President of the Honors Commission, Vice President of External Affairs for Student Ambassadors, Senior Student Editor for the Westminster Journal for Global Progress, Vice President of the Order of Omega, member of the Model United Nations, and a Pi Chi 2018 Recruitment Counselor, to name just a few additional leadership positions.
When not advocating or leading, Wilson spends quality time with her cat, Lola. And as for her future aspirations? Wilson emphasizes what originally led to her testimony against HB 2408. “I hope to go into public affairs or governmental consulting,” Wilson muses. “And I could see myself working outside the state of Missouri one day.”