Gov. Jay Nixon today visited Zalma High School to congratulate the school on achieving the state's A+ Schools designation, and to encourage students there to take advantage of the program, which offers two years of free tuition and academic fees at Missouri's community colleges. The Governor also praised the school for achieving the designation as a School of Distinction for the past eight years.
"A post-secondary degree opens so many more doors of opportunity for today's students," said Gov. Nixon. "That's why I'm proud of the students here at Zalma High School who are taking advantage of Missouri's A+ program, and earning their way to a higher education. This school has also demonstrated its excellence by being named as a School of Distinction for the past eight years - another accomplishment in which this district can be proud."
Under the A+ program, Missouri students can earn a scholarship to cover the cost of tuition and academic fees for two years at any public two-year community college or technical school in the state. To be eligible for the program, students must meet academic achievement, conduct and attendance requirements, and perform 50 hours of tutoring or mentoring service.
Since 1997, almost 125,000 high-achieving Missouri students have qualified for A+ scholarships, and more than 50,000 have taken advantage of those financial incentives for at least one semester. In total, Missouri students have received more than $250 million in A+ scholarships since 1997. Since Gov. Nixon took office, 148 schools have earned the A+ designation, bringing the state total to 398 public high schools in Missouri. Zalma was one of more than 50 schools that earned the designation last year.
During an extensive, multi-year designation process, schools seeking A+ status must develop strategies to address a number of key issues, including dropout prevention, student achievement and college and career preparation. Schools receive the A+ designation after review and final approval by the State Board of Education.
Participation by Missouri students in the A+ program has grown by 30 percent during Gov. Nixon's tenure in office. Projections for fiscal year 2012, which began in July 2011, estimate that 12,500 students will be taking advantage of the scholarships this year. Approximately 14,000 students are expected to be A+ scholars next year.
Gov. Nixon has ensured that continued state funding is available to provide these scholarships for the record number of students participating in A+. For fiscal year 2013, the budget proposed by Gov. Nixon makes more than $29 million available to fund the A+ program. Currently, the Governor's funding recommendation has been maintained in both the House and Senate appropriations bills.
"The A+ program offers students a chance to earn a college education if they're willing to volunteer, work hard and play by the rules," Gov. Nixon said. "My budget proposal keeps our commitment to this important program, and I appreciate the continued bipartisan support this effort has received."
The Zalma School District earned the state's Distinction in Performance Designation for the 2011-2012 school year, a designation it has achieved each of the past eight years. For a public school district to achieve the Distinction in Performance Designation, the district must meet at least 13 out of 14 academic standards, including all six Missouri Assessment Program standards.