Independence Superintendent Dale Herl and State Sen. Paul LeVota, D-11., proposed legislation in Jefferson City Wednesday that would enable the Missouri Department of Higher Education’s A+ Scholarship Program to cover tuition for dual-credit college courses taken by Missouri high school students enrolled in the program.

A dual credit course enables students to earn college credit while they are still in high school.

Currently the A+ Program provides scholarship funds to eligible high school graduates who attend either a public community college or vocational/technical schools. MO SB848 would allow the A+ Program to provide scholarship funds to both dual-credit college courses and a community college or technical school.

“Students will have to qualify for A+,” said LeVota. “(This bill) is a scholarship for those dual credit courses through the A+ Program.”

To complete the A+ Program, a student must maintain a minimum of a 2.5 grade point average, have a 95 percent attendance record and perform at 50 hours of community service.  Starting with senior classes in 2015, students also will have to achieve an advanced or proficient score on their Algebra I end-of-course exam or a higher mathematics end-of-course exam approved by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

If A+ Program students decide to enroll in a dual-credit course, this legislation allows them to be reimbursed for the course.

“This bill means students still have to perform their volunteering hours while taking dual credit courses,” said Herl.

“But it doesn’t cover books, just tuition,” adds LeVota.

The legislation aligns with the Independence district's goal of providing the option for future graduating seniors to earn an associate’s degree, along with their diploma, beginning in 2018. Herl says there is a disincentive in the district for students to take dual credit courses.

“Parents or families now have to pay for these types of courses,” said Herl. “Kids usually choose not to enroll in dual credit courses because they’re after the A+ dollars. This (bill) will be a huge push for children to take college courses.”

He also said that an estimated 800 students are enrolled in the A+ Program in the Independence district. The overall objective is for Independence students to earn a four-year college degree by already completing their two-year associate’s when they graduate.

“This (bill) will be great for families, economically. It gives students a light at the end of tunnel to earn a four-year degree.”

Herl and LeVota introduced the legislation to the Senate Education Committee in Jefferson City earlier this week. LeVota said the commitee’s reception was “very positive.”

“They commented that very few bills like this come before them,” said Herl. “The reception was exceptional and they commended Senator LeVota for proposing it.”

LeVota said SB848’s next step is to be voted by the Senate floor, followed by the House.