COLUMBIA – Columbia Public Schools will pay for all high school juniors in the district to take the ACT exam after state budget cuts prevent the state from covering the cost.
Columbia Public Schools estimates the total cost to be around $55,000.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has paid for every 11th grade student to take the ACT one time at school since 2015, but will no longer be able to after Gov. Eric Greitens cut the assessment budget by $4 million.
Columbia Public School's Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark said the district received a notification that the state could no longer afford to pay a few months ago.
The district still needs board action on the decision to cover the costs, and they are considering a budget amendment at the next meeting in September.
"We really felt as a district that it was a huge benefit to our students to be able to have access to and to take the ACT," Baumstark said. "It created an opportunity for students who might not otherwise take the exam or might not otherwise consider themselves college material."
The ACT placement test is necessary for admission to most colleges and universities.
"We do feel that it is a good investment in our students achievement and future opportunities," Baumstark said.
Baumstark said the test that's administered at school usually takes place in the spring, but since the district isn't working with DESE anymore they will have to work with ACT to determine when to conduct the exam.
Students can begin test preparation at Sylvan Learning Centers in Columbia and Jefferson City. Sylvan Learning Center Director Jim Savesky said they will be offering a free practice exam for anyone on Saturday Sept. 9. You can register online or over the phone.
Sylvan Learning also offers a 6-week ACT test preparation class on Sundays from 12:30 to 4:30pm. Savesky says the program helps students practice each subject area and allows them to take multiple practice exams.
"What we can do is either make you stronger in your strongest area or try an bring up your weakest area," Savesky said.
The program also includes online practice tools.
"The more practice tests you can take, the better you're going to do. It's a scary thought for a sophomore or a junior to go in and take a test that could mean 'I could either go to college or I don't go to college,'" Savesky said.
Baumstark said the schools do a number of things to help prep students for the exam
"I think anybody who has ever taken the ACT or SAT knows that there's a little bit of prep work that goes into it prior to taking the exam itself to become familiar with the format and with how the test is administered so that you're definitely comfortable on test-taking day," Baumstark said."