A potential budget cut facing the Missouri A+ Schools Program would directly affect approximately 15,000 Missouri college students beginning in Spring 2015. Learn more about the A+ Program, its history, and its funding today on the Missouri Parent Blog.
The History of the A+ Program
The Missouri A+ Program is a reimbursement-based scholarship program for graduating high school students that helps them pay for college tuition and general fees at participating public community colleges and vocational/technical schools.
The program was established in 1993 as part of Senate Bill 380, which was also called The Outstanding Schools Act. When it began, the A+ Program was designed specifically to help those students who might otherwise not have attended college by helping them graduate high school and earn a two-year degree.
The program had three primary goals:
-To increase high school graduation rates
-To develop more challenging high school curriculum
-To prepare students to pursue an advanced education, high-wage employment, or both after high school graduation (source)
Before the A+ Program was created, Missouri had a 75% high school graduation rate; 25% of high school students dropped out before receiving a degree. Last year, Missouri had the 8th highest graduation rate in America at 80.7%. (source)
The A+ Program helped more than 12,000 students go to college last year, and it is anticipated to help nearly 15,000 students attend college next year. More students are enrolling in the A+ Program every year, and many of them truly need the assistance the program provides.
Cassville High School’s A+ Program Sponsor Tyne Rabourn told the Cassville Democrat that her district has “a few students that might have to stop going to school” if A+ funds are reduced. (source)
What Factors Impact A+ Funding?
The amount of money received by A+ students varies from student to student because A+ reimbursements are only applied after all of each student’s available non-loan federal assistance money has been applied to his or her account. (source).
Federal assistance impacts the amount of A+ funding individual students receive, but it’s the Missouri General Revenue that determines how much money is available to the A+ Program as a whole. According to the Missouri Department of Higher Education, tuition reimbursements “may be reduced if there are insufficient state appropriations.” (source)
This is why the A+ Program has recently made statewide news: the Missouri General Revenue is expected to earn less money in 2015 than originally projected, and because the Missouri Constitution forbids the state from operating in the red, the governor has adjusted 2015 spending projections so that they don’t exceed income projections.
Unfortunately, the state’s decreased revenues could affect graduates of more than 500 Missouri high schools. That’s an estimated 15,000 Missouri community college and vocational school students whose tuition reimbursements might be lower than they’ve planned for in the Spring of 2015.
Why is A+ Program Funding Threatened?
You might remember a catch phrase and hashtag called “#FridayFavors” that was used in the Missouri news a few weeks ago. The Friday Favors were a collection of tax break bills designed to help stimulate the Missouri economy by offering tax incentives to big businesses.
Not all of those tax breaks passed, but those that did were good for businesses. Unfortunately, they aren’t so good for schools, parks, and other public works. As Governor Nixon tweeted before Friday Favors veto session, “#FridayFavors not accounted for in budget would reduce state & local revenues as well as dedicated funds for education, conservation & parks.”
State Budget Director Linda Luebbering also warned of the dangers of new tax break bills to public education:
“This is very significant from the standpoint that you have to reduce services and programs in order to make up for that loss. The biggest single beneficiary of state general revenue is K-12 education.”
Another big beneficiary of the Missouri General Revenue are the thousands of public college students in Missouri. Missouri’s A+ students are seeing the effects of the Friday Favors budget cuts as their scholarship funding comes under threat.
What You Can Do
There is no question that increased high school graduation rates are good for Missouri. And it’s tough to argue against an infrastructure that helps Missouri students earn their associate’s degrees. And yet, the Missouri General Assembly passed tax break bills that threaten both of these things.
If you believe that the A+ Program is important for Missouri’s students and Missouri’s economic future, please contact your legislator today to let them know that the A+ Program matters.
If you are an A+ Program alumni who’s A+ scholarship helped you earn a degree from a Missouri community college or vocational school, contact your legislator to let them know how the A+ Program impacted your life and your livelihood.
Click Here to Tweet a Message to the Missouri General Assembly and Governor Nixon.
It’s up to us—Missouri’s parents, educators, and students—to let our elected officials know that public education is vital for K-12 and college students.
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