Governor endorses A+ Program expansion while applauding Russellville School District designation

Gov. Jay Nixon meets with Russellville students Thursday and talks about the importance of the A+ Program while applauding the school's designation in the program.

Gov. Jay Nixon meets with Russellville students Thursday and talks about the importance of the A+ Program while applauding the school's designation in the program. Photo by John Inman.

Gov. Jay Nixon visited the Russellville High School campus Thursday, Jan. 6 and congratulated the school for its A+ designation. The A+ program provides two years of tuition and fees at public community colleges and technical schools for students who go through the program at an A+ designated school.

"It is always a pleasure to visit one of Missouri's outstanding public schools," Gov. Nixon said, "and I am especially pleased to be here at Russellville today. As a long-time supporter of the A+ program, I commend the teachers, administrators, staff, students and parents in Russellville for going the extra mile and earning this designation which will help more Missouri families achieve the dream of an affordable college education."

To be eligible for the program, students must meet the academic achievement, tutoring or mentoring service, conduct requirements and graduate from a designated A+ high school. Trisha Black, who is the A+ coordinator for the Cole R-I School District said Russellville High School has 99 students currently enrolled in the A+ program.

Black added seven of the 18 qualifying students who graduated in May of 2010 are currently using their A+ benefits. Three of those students are enrolled at Linn Tech and the four others are enrolled at State Fair. Two of the other students plan on using their A+ benefits during the 2011-2012 school year while eight other students are currently enrolled in a four year university and not eligible while the other student has enlisted in the military.

"We were very honored and pleased the Governor and his staff decided to come to our school," Cole R-I School District Superintendent Jerry Hobbs said. "We have worked very hard the last two years to get the program. Our staff has worked very hard in developing the curriculum to meet the needs of the program as well as changing policy to improve our attendance. Students need to have a 95 percent attendance and a 2.5 GPA along with other criteria."

Hobbs added he hopes Gov. Nixon and the legislature will open the program to include not only two-year schools, but four-year colleges as well.

Since 1997, almost 125,000 Missouri students have qualified for A+ scholarships with more than 50,000 of those having taken advantage of those financial incentives for at least one semester. In total, Missouri students have received more than $163 million in A+ scholarships since 1997.

"As tuition costs continue to skyrocket across the country, Missouri is leading the way in college affordability," Gov. Nixon said. "A+ scholarships help students prepare for the jobs of the future by putting a college degree within reach. The A+ program has helped tens of thousands of families afford a college education and these scholarships must continue to be a priority, even in challenging economic times. I am committed to finding a way to expand the benefits of this program so we can help more families in every corner of Missouri."

Gov. Nixon said he applauded Russellville High School and the hundreds of school across Missouri which have achieved the A+ designation and said the fact 125 schools have students who are not eligible for the scholarships must change.

"I think the visit will help bring attention to our parents and students," Hobbs said, "about the importance of this program. With the Governor taking the time out of his busy schedule to come out, tour our school and visit with the students, it has made the students very excited as well as people in our community."

Russellville student Courtney Crum said it was great seeing Gov. Nixon visit the school because they are in a small community and do not have very many visitors. She added she hopes they expand the A+ program to four-year schools as well.

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