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Nixon Proposes Expansion of A+ Scholarships

January 24, 2011

Cindy Hess and Jay Nixon  
Cindy Hess, Forest Park campus president,
introduces Gov. Jay Nixon during a visit to the
William J. Harrison Education Center.

Gov. Jay Nixon today called on the General Assembly to pass legislation expanding access to state A+ scholarships for low-income students who meet the program’s eligibility criteria, but who have been ineligible in the past because they attend public high schools that do not hold the state A+ designation, including public high schools in the St. Louis area


Nixon made the announcement during a visit to St. Louis Community College’s William J. Harrison Education Center, which is adjacent to Vashon High School in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood.


“Every good student in Missouri deserves the opportunity to go to college – whether they live in St. Louis or Kansas city, or in a rural county,” Nixon said. “For too long, too many excellent Missouri high school students have been unable to get A+ scholarships – through no fault of their own – simply because their schools weren’t designed as A+ schools. That’s just not fair. And it needs to change.”


For eligible students, Missouri A+ scholarships cover the cost of tuition and fees for two years at public community colleges or technical schools. To be eligible for an A+ scholarship, students must earn a 2.5 grade-point average, have a 95 percent attendance rate, perform 50 hours of tutoring or mentoring, and maintain a record of good conduct. Since 1997, more than 50,000 Missouri students have received an A+ scholarship.


Under current law, students also must graduate from a designated A+ high school to be eligible for an A+ scholarship. More than 300 public Missouri high schools have earned the A+ designation, but many schools have not yet done so, especially in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. Nixon’s proposal would provide A+ scholarships to low-income student who meet all of the program’s performance criteria, but who attend a public school that has not earned the A+ designation.


Several public high schools in the St. Louis area have earned the A+ designation or are on track to earn designation in 2011. Other schools, however, either have not begun the multi-year application process or will not complete that process for several more years.


“Missouri students deserve equal opportunity, no matter what public high school they attend,” Nixon said. “This proposal would do just that.”


Nixon’s proposal would expand the scholarships to students whose families have an adjusted annual gross income of up to approximately $55,000. Nixon’s budget for FY 2012 includes $1 million to fund the expansion, which would provide scholarship for more than 700 additional students. Funding for the expansion would come from the Department of Higher Education’s Guaranty Agency operating fund.

Last year, St. Louis Community College served more than 1,000 students with A+ grants totaling more than $2 million.


“Through A+, we’re reaching more and more students who otherwise might not have the funds to attend college,” said Cindy Hess, president of STLCC’s Forest Park campus. “We are excited about the governor’s plans to expand A+ scholarship eligibility to low-income students, thereby expanding access to higher education across the state.”


With the addition of St. Louis Public Schools, STLCC will serve students at 39 area high schools in the A+ program throughout St. Louis City and County, and portions of Franklin and Jefferson counties.