Parson's Fast Track Workforce Initiative grant could send some back to college

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JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mike Parson's proposal to offer scholarships for adults to study high-demand fields is facing some changes. 

The proposed $22 million Fast-Track Workforce Incentive would cover tuition for some adults age 25 and over with an adjusted household income of less than $80,000. This would allow them to pursue degrees or training in careers in high need of trained workers.

In hearings at the Capitol Monday, some minor changes were made.

"The bill needed some clarification," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kathy Swan, R - Cape Girardeau, "On the top of the bill there was an indication that a participant has to be 25 or older OR not have been enrolled on an academic program [in the last two years]. We changed that OR to an AND."

Swan said, in addition to that, someone with a bachelor degree or higher is not eligible to participate in the program.

Some lawmakers expressed skepticism over the measure. Sen. Bob Onder, R - Lake St. Louis, said he is not sure the initiative is timely.

"We are looking at a budget that doesn't fully fund the community college needs and yet we're starting another scholarship bill," he said.

Swan said supporters are hoping to launch the Fast-Track program by January 2020. 

In his first State of the State address, Parson announced workforce development as one of his key priorities.

"So let me be crystal clear, cultivating and training our workforce for high-demand jobs and investing in critical infrastructure are the priorities we must address this session," he said in that address.

Parson said it would help people get advanced training in high-demand areas.

"This will open the doors for Missourians to have opportunities to earn more money for their hard work," he said.

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