Mo. Bill to Provide Financial Aid to Bright Students

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COLUMBIA - If a Missouri Senate bill is passed into law, high school students who graduate early could receive financial aid for college from the state.

"It's an idea to reward motivated kids that have the ability to graduate high school early rather than sit there and blow off their last year," said Senator Scott Rupp, R- 2nd District, who introduced the bill.

The money, which can only be used at colleges in Missouri, would be reallocated from existing funds within the Department of Education said Rupp. How much an early graduating student would receive would be based on how much state funding the school receives divided by the total number of students enrolled. Essentially, the graduating student would receive the amount the state would have paid for their senior year.

But Rock Bridge High School counseling director Besty Jones said this could ultimately hurt high schools.

"The number of students that have the ability to do this will not decrease the number of sections of courses we have to have," said Jones.

According to Jones, Rock Bridge has between three and five students attempt to graduate in three years but most wind up graduating a semester early.

"I think the other thing that we find is we want kids to take full advantage of their four high school years," said Jones, "We want them to be involved in activities, we want them to take advanced placement courses, we want them to take dual credit courses."

According to the bill, any student enrolled in a public Missouri high school is eligible. However, some Missouri legislators would like to see private high school students and home schooled students added to the list. Rupp said that including those students outside public education would put too much of a strain on Missouri's budget.

"When the economy comes around, I would love to add as many students as we can," said Rupp.

Missouri high school students are required to have 24 credits before graduation and can take seven credits a year. According to Jones, students who wish to graduate early would have to take summer school before their freshman year, after their freshman year, and after their sophomore year.