Revenue shortfalls strike A+ Program

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

High school students may have to pay for credit hours

According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, anticipated shortfalls in state revenues will mean full tuition for A+ Program students will likely not be available in the 2014-2015 academic year.

A reduction in tuition, not to exceed four credit hours during the Spring 2015 semester, has been proposed in order to meet the A+ Program's expenditure restriction.

Although a positive change in the revenue picture and expenditures for A+ may cause the restriction to be lifted, A+ students should be prepared to pay for four credit hours. Students are required to be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours.

For four credit hours at Crowder College, students can expect to pay about $508, with $1,016 coming from the state for the other 8 hours. For four credit hours at Ozark Technical College, students can expect to pay $614, with $1,228 being paid by the state for the other 8 hours.

Tyne Rabourn, A+ Program sponsor at Cassville High School, said the school has 384 students (68 percent) of its students enrolled in the A+ Program, which gives those students financial assistance for up to four years after graduation.

"We are disappointed at the prospect of not having full tuition, and I've talked to all the graduates last year and am almost done talking to all the graduates from the year before," she said.

Students have always and will continue to pay for materials and equipment used in specialized areas of study, such as nursing, dental hygiene and drafting and design, among others.

According to Rabourn, some students may have difficulty continuing the A+ Program if the funding is not returned.

"We have a few students that might have to stop going to school, and we kind of nurture those kids along and they are prepared," she said. "I can see it being hard on them because some couldn't possibly borrow the money.

"We've always known it's a funds available type thing with the state, and it's been good to us for so long. They specifically mentioned Spring of next year, so I trust things will straighten out so that only one semester will be involved."

Since Cassville High School was certified as an A+ school in April 1999, 472 students have qualified for fully-funded tuition and general fees. Statewide, 533 schools in Missouri have the A+ Program, and in 2013, the state paid A+ funds to 12,853 students.

Rabourn said students who enroll in the program must meet a number of requirements: be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or lawfully present; Attend an A+ school on a full-time basis for three consecutive years; hold a grade point average of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale; Have 95 percent attendance for four years of high school; complete 50 hours of tutoring; and have a record of good citizenry, avoiding alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

Rabourn said students must also fill out the FAFSA form and accept any federal money, like Pell grants, before using A+ funding from the state.

Once in college, students must maintain a full-time schedule of 12 hours in the fall and spring semesters and 6 hours during the summer, as well as keep a 2.5 GPA.

Rabourn said the program is a a huge benefit to students, especially those who leave for school and return to the community after graduation.

"We have four teachers that went through the A+ Program here and have come back to teach here," she said. "It's so exciting when they come back to the community after four years of school, knowing A+ took care of the first two."

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