Official says no expansion planned for A Plus program

Friday, October 8, 2004

Missouri's APlus Schools scholarship program, contrary to some media reports, hasn't been expanded to public four-year colleges, the program's state director said Thursday.

The program provides funding for qualified students to attend Missouri's community colleges or technical schools.

An Associated Press story last month reported that the program had been expanded to four-year colleges. "That is not the case," said Jocelyn Strand, director of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education APlus program.

But Debbie Below, director of admissions at Southeast, said the university does participate in the state-funded APlus program in cooperation with Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Only Southeast students enrolled in two-year, associate of applied science degrees in computer technology or child care and guidance are eligible for the state scholarship money, she said. Even then, the state aid is funneled to Southeast students through Three Rivers Community College, Below said.

"We have 24 students enrolled at Southeast receiving APlus funding," she said.

Below said the report of expansion of the program resulted from confusion over the fact that some four-year public and private colleges in Missouri are offering their own financial incentives to APlus eligible students who attend their schools.

But such financial aid, she said, isn't coming from DESE.

Randall Lee, vice president of student affairs at Three Rivers Community College, said he's glad the program remains focused on aiding community college and technical school students.

"It helps us open educational doors for many good students," he said. The community college currently has 368 students who are receiving APlus financial aid from the state.

The state of Missouri established its APlus scholarship program to help high schools reduce dropout rates, Strand said.

State budget problems in recent years have slowed the addition of new high schools to the program. Benefits also have been trimmed, Three Rivers officials said. The state budgeted about $12 million for the program in the past fiscal year.

There currently are 214 participating high schools in the program including Cape Girardeau Central High School.

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