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Missouri could offer free tuition for jobs in nursing, transportation

High school graduates looking to become truck drivers, certified nurse assistants and medication technicians could receive free tuition under a bill in the Missouri Legislature.

House Bill 2670, sponsored by Rep. Ann Kelley, R-Lamar, would expand the state’s A+ Scholarship program to include paying tuition for training programs lasting less than 15 weeks and less than 600 instructional hours. The fiscal note for the bill reported the A+ expansion would increase the state’s cost by $1.3 million in fiscal year 2023 and increase to $1.4 million in 2025.

For residents to be eligible for the A+ Scholarship, high school students must graduate with a grade-point average of 2.5 or higher on a four-point scale, have a 95% attendance record, complete 50 hours of community service, have a good record of citizenship and be at least proficient in Algebra I.

Kelley told the House Higher Education Committee on Monday the legislation would fill a gap between the A+ program and the state’s Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant. Fast Track is a financial aid program for individuals 25 years or older who haven’t been enrolled in any school during the last two years and desire to get a certificate, degree or industry-recognized credential in an area designated as high need. Fast Track participants can make no more than $40,000 annually and haven’t earned a bachelor’s degree.

“Instead of having these students wait until they are 25, we need to provide opportunities right out of high school to enable these students to be successful adults,” Kelley told the committee.

The bill’s text specifically mentions programs for completing commercial driver’s licenses and certified nurse assistants and medication technicians. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) found high demand for these occupations. MERIC’s compilation of statewide job postings reported 2,494 online job listings for licensed practical and vocational nurses during the fourth quarter of 2021. It found 3,895 online job postings for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers during the period.

Kelley testified the change would assist those desiring to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), required by the federal government for driving certain motor vehicles. Kelley said CDL training costs approximately $4,000; industry sources report a cost range of $3,000 to $7,000. The cost to apply for the license in Missouri is $20.

No one testified against the bill, but Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, predicted challenges for allocating funding for education.

“I’m not necessarily against this idea, but it’s adding $1.3 million onto what’s probably a $20 million problem,” Windham said.

This article was originally posted on Missouri could offer free tuition for jobs in nursing, transportation

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