By 2020, over 60% of jobs in Missouri will require an associate’s degree or higher. This means that as a community, we need to better prepare our current and future workforce. According to Lumina Foundation, those attending college today are not always the traditional college student.
Current and future college students are 42% students of color, and 31% are living below the federal poverty level (gross income of $25,700 for a family of four with two adults working). About half of today’s college students don’t receive financial assistance from family. In 1975, federal Pell grants covered about 75% of college costs, while today they only cover about 25%.
Fortunately, there are several resources available for those wanting to continue their education and aren’t sure how they are going to pay for it.
Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant
The state’s Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant kicked off in August. This new program is available to adults 25 and older who stopped going to college for two or more years and those under age 25 who have not been in school for at least two years. The program covers tuition and fees (but not books) to finish certification or a degree for up to four semesters. The state’s goal with the program is to have 60% of working-age adults with a high-quality certificate or degree by 2025.
Students must complete a Fast Track application at https://web.dhewd.mo.gov/studentportal/ as well as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The governmental financial aid will pay first, and the program will cover any remaining tuition and fees. Those who already have all tuition and fees paid are eligible for an award of up to $500 to cover other education-related expenses.
Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College have many qualified programs to finish or earn a certificate or degree.
Missouri Scholarship and Loan Foundation
The Missouri Scholarship and Loan Foundation (http://www.moslf.org/) is a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships and low-cost student loans to support completion for Missouri citizens at higher education institutions. The foundation has several programs:
Finish Line Degree Completion Grant (debt forgiveness)
This is a pilot program for Missouri public community colleges, four-year institutions and the State Technical College of Missouri (located in Linn), if the institution agrees to participate. This grant was created because past due balances owed to higher education institutions can be a barrier for students, especially adult learners. Past due balances are one of the reasons students do not complete higher education. In many cases, those balances must be paid to receive a copy of an official transcript. For more information, contact the financial aid office of the institution you want to attend to finish credentials.
Missouri Family Education Loan Program
This program provides a private student loan designed with borrowing options for Missouri students who have financial need but may not meet the traditional credit requirements for private loans. The funds are limited for each academic year and are available on a first come, first served basis. These funds, while available, are for interest free loans to students attending participating schools who meet the eligibility, underwriting and other requirements. For more information, go to mslf.mohela.com.
Access Extra Scholarship
The Access Extra Scholarship is a private scholarship for students eligible for the Access Missouri Financial Assistance Program and who have a 28 or higher on the ACT. Students are required to complete an online application through Scholarship Central (https://myscholarshipcentral.org/) which includes uploading SAR, ACT score report and answering a few questions. Awards are prioritized by first-come, first-served and they provide awards until the funding is depleted. Scholarship Central is designed for low-income high school students to assist them with applying for scholarships and interest free loans.
Director’s Choice Grant Program
The foundation funds grants for students with a specific and urgent financial need to address challenges to reaching their educational success in Missouri public institutions. Eligible students attending community colleges, four-year institutions, and State Technical College of Missouri should contact the financial aid office at the institution where they attend school for more information. OTC and MSU utilize this program for their students.
The Missouri Department for Higher Education has a student portal designed for an individual to have one place to access and store information related to higher education completion and includes a state financial aid portal.
Francine Pratt is the director of Prosper Springfield, a collective impact initiative focused on a shared community vision to improve economic mobility in the Springfield community. The Prosper Springfield mission is to build community relationships and align community resources to create pathways that help move people to prosperity. For more information, contact Francine at 417-888-2020.