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Missouri A+ Program May Face Cutbacks

The Missouri Department of Higher Education has announced that there may be a reduction in the number of credit hours eligible for A+ Program reimbursement in the spring semester of 2015.

The possible cutbacks in A+ funding are part of Governor Jay Nixon’s attempts to keep the Missouri General Revenue budget in balance. 12,000 students received A+ funding in the 2012-13 school year, and that number is expected to hit 15,000 in the 2014-15 school year.

The increase in anticipated A+ Program expenses comes at a time when the Governor is already struggling to keep the budget balanced. When several tax break bills passed earlier this year, reducing the state’s anticipated tax revenues, Governor Nixon put spending restrictions—including a $2 million A+ Program funding withhold—in place.

Learn More: The Governor Vetoes Tax Breaks

The Missouri A+ Program covers two years of education at select community, technical, and vocational schools in Missouri. A+ reimbursements can be used to pay tuition, but are not designed to cover textbooks, personal expenses, or program-specific needs.

In order to qualify for A+ funding, students must:
· Attend a designated A+ high school for at least three years
· Maintain a cumulative 2.5 GPA throughout high school
· Attain a 95% attendance record from 9th through 12th grade
· Provide 50 hours of unpaid tutoring or mentoring

If A+ funding is decreased, students should be prepared to pay for four credit hours in Spring 2015. Four credit hours costs several hundred dollars at most of Missouri’s A+ colleges.

What Does Four Credit Hours Cost?
· Crowder College: $508 (source)
· Ozark Technical College: $614 (source)
· East Central College: $380 (in-district students) or $520(out-of-district students) (source)

How A+ Program Cuts Will Affect Students
Cuts to the A+ Program will affect students differently. Cassville High School’s A+ Program Sponsor Tyne Rabourn worries about whether her A+ students will be able to finish their higher education with the help the program offers.

“We have a few students that might have to stop going to school,” Rabourn told the Cassville Democrat. She expressed her concern that some of Cassville’s students “couldn’t possibly borrow the money” to cover community college courses. (source)

East Central College President Dr. Jon Bauer also expressed concerns about students having to resort to loans if A+ funds are cut:

“We will continue working with students to make sure they’re aware of other options they may have, whether it’s scholarship funds that might still be available, payment plan options we have and options regarding student loans—though that would be the least attractive as we don’t’ want students to borrow more than they absolutely have to.” (source)

On the other hand, Austen Lockhart, a representative from Ozarks Technical College is less worried about how A+ cuts will affect students. Lockhard told the University of Missouri’s The Maneater that A+ is a cushion for most students:

“(The A+ Scholarship Program) basically acts as a cushion for a lot of students. If you can make the requirements in high school and get accepted, it is something that puts students at ease. However, I have not received complaints of funding cuts affecting anyone too majorly. For most people A+ is just that cushion, it’s not everything,” (source)

It’s too soon to tell exactly what will happen with Missouri’s A+ Program funding, but 15,000 Missouri high school, college, and vocation students—and their parents—are anxious to find out.

To stay up-to-date on legislative and funding issues affecting Missouri’s public schools, and to learn more about college and career readiness for Missouri high school students, come back often to the Missouri Parent Blog or follow Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter.

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