A+ Schools program expands

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Jay Nixon

Money is a big motivator for teenagers, according to a Scott City High School teacher.

"Money talks. Kids understand money," said history teacher Seth Ward, who uses the prospect of free college tuition to encourage his students to excel.

Thanks to a recent expansion of the A+ Schools program, students at 99 percent of Missouri's public high schools have the opportunity to earn two years' worth of tuition to any public community college in the state, Gov. Jay Nixon told students Tuesday during an assembly at Scott City High School, which was among 118 recent additions to the program.

"It's a pretty good deal: You do the work; we pay the bill. Seems fair," he said.

Nixon said that during the past four years, Missouri has led the country in keeping college tuition costs down, but that isn't always enough.

"The cost of college can still be a barrier to many students," he said.

The state-funded A+ Schools program seeks to remove that barrier.

To qualify, students must attend an A+ school, maintain at least a B average, have 95 percent or better attendance and spend at least 50 hours mentoring younger students, Nixon said.

Currently, 99 percent of Missouri's public high schools have the A+ designation, up from 50 percent four years ago, Nixon said. He said his goal is 100 percent.

Nixon's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year includes a $150 million increase in education funding, including $17 million for early childhood education, $100 million for kindergarten through 12th grades and $34 million for higher education.

Ward encourages his students to sign up for the A+ program as early as possible.

"In order to do what you want to do, you've got to do what you have to do, and you've got to keep the grades," he said. "By the time you're a senior, if you're not involved, it's too late. It's all about getting them early."

Diann Ulmer, superintendent of Scott City Public Schools, said 37 of about 70 students in this year's graduating class qualify for A+.

She praised the mentoring aspect of the program, which provides positive role models for younger students.

"It gives the elementary students somebody to look up to," she said.

epriddy@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

3000 Main St., Scott City, MO

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