More Students Use A+ Program to Combat Rising Tuition

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COLUMBIA - As college students prepare to return to school, they now face rising tuition rates.

For Hali Williams, preparation means working for her family business while finishing up as a senior at Hickman High. Williams hopes to attend to college but is fighting a financial battle. 

Christina Williams, Hali's mother, knows the challenge her daughter faces.

"And Hali is going to graduating in 2011. And so that was a huge stress on me knowing that they would all be graduating bam bam bam. I would have three kids in college. And I knew that there was no way I could pay for that," said Williams. 

Governor Nixon addressed college affordablity in the annual State of the State Address saying, "Every good student in Missouri deserves the opportunity to go to college- whether they live in the urban core in St. Louis or Kansas City, or down a country road in the Bootheel."

In January of this year, all Missouri systems announced a 5.5-percent average increase, making it that much harder for families like the Williams.

Laura Hoff is an A+ specialist at Hickman High School in Columbia. She says the A+ option is becoming more and more realistic for many families.

"Well back in the day when their child was a kid you know they budgeted and saved but that money now will only pay for 2 years in college. So A+ is becoming a real viable option for these people," said Hoff.

More than 40,000 student in Missouri now attend two years of college for free. 

"The A+ part kind of made me think that I actually had to make a lot of A's to be in it," said Hali.

The state funded program requires a minimum 2.5 GPA, 50 hours of community service, and 95-percent attendance.

"But I didn't actually get into my junior year, and then I got into it my senior year because ah... I knew that I needed it," said Hali. 

Students can choose to use their scholarship at designated community colleges around the state.

"I mean she could've gotten student loans, and pay for them for the rest of her life. But I think with the A+ program is going to give her the benefit to where she can get started in the community colleges," said Hali's mother.

More students like Hali are attending institutions like the MACC. In 2008 alone, there were nearly 655 students participating in the A+ program. In the 2010-11 school year, the number jumped to more than 900 students.

"Its giving me a chance to succeed I feel like it's helping me out a lot and its taking away a lot of the stress. I plan on applying to MACC and going there for two years and transferring to MIZZOU. I hope to get a business degree," said Hali.

Hali hopes to use the degree to one day take over the family business.

The A+ program was created by the outstanding school acts of 1993 as an incentive for improving Missouri High Schools. To find out if your local high school qualifies for the A+ program, click the following link.