A+


Al West A+ Coordinator at awest@kingsville.k12.mo.us Angie Collens A+ Secretary at acollens@kingsville.k12.mo.us


A+ APPLICATION


Change to A+ Three-Year Attendance Requirement

The A+ Scholarship’s three-year attendance requirement has been modified with the General Assembly’s passage and the Governor’s signing of House Bill 1744 on June 1, 2018. The modification removes the requirement that students attend an A+ designed high school for the three years immediately prior to graduation and allows students to attend an A+ designated school for any three years prior to graduation. The statute still requires that students graduate from an A+ high school.


House Bill 1744 contained an emergency clause, meaning this change became effective upon the Governor’s signature on June 1. Since the bill became effective in the 2017-2018 academic year, which ends June 30, 2018, the change applies to the 2018 seniors even though most have already graduated. As a result, A+ designated high schools should provide an A+ stamped transcript to their 2018 seniors who attended an A+ designated high school, or a combination of A+ designated high schools, for any three of the four years prior to graduation and met the program’s other high school eligibility criteria. For example, an otherwise eligible 2018 senior who attended an A+ designated high school during their freshman, sophomore, and senior years is now eligible for the A+ scholarship.


For the 2018 seniors, attendance for three years is still defined as enrollment in at least 80 percent of the instructional days required for graduation. However, the timeframe over which the 80 percent enrollment is calculated has changed slightly. The 2018 seniors must have been enrolled in 80 percent of the instructional days over the three years the student was in attendance at an A+ designated high school. For example, if a 2018 senior attended an A+ designated high school or schools during their freshman, sophomore, and senior years, and there was a total of 525 instructional days in those three years (175 days per year), the student must have been enrolled in a minimum of 420 of the 525 days (80 percent) over their freshman, sophomore and senior years to meet the three-year attendance requirement. Previously students had to be enrolled in 80 percent of the instructional days over the three years immediately prior to graduation (sophomore, junior and senior years). It is important to keep in mind that this requirement is about the period during which the student is enrolled and is different from the 95 percent attendance requirement, which applies to attendance during the time the student is enrolled.


The Missouri Department of Higher Education will re-evaluate the definition of the three-year attendance requirement beginning with the 2019 seniors this summer and will keep the A+ community informed of any changes.


The A+ Scholarship Program page of the Journey to College website, which is also available on the MDHE website, has been updated to reflect this statutory change. The A+ administrative rule will be updated as soon as the rulemaking process permits.


If you have any questions, please contact:


Connie Bestgen, financial aid specialist

800-473-6757, option 4, 573-751-1772, or connie.bestgen@dhe.mo.gov


Amy Haller, financial aid specialist

573-526-7958 or amy.haller@dhe.mo.gov


Kelli Reed, student assistance associate

573-751-2444 or kelli.reed@dhe.mo.gov


Clarification of A+ Eligibility and Delayed Release of 2017-2018

Algebra I EOC Scores

On March 14, 2018, the Missouri Department of Higher Education notified the A+ community of the accommodations that will be provided to the 2018 seniors who took the Algebra I EOC in 2017-2018 and who will not know if they have achieved a qualifying Algebra I EOC score until after summer or fall 2018 enrollment has begun. This message clarifies that guidance and provides additional information about the verification letter required for the impacted students to receive reimbursement.


The March 14 message specified only the Algebra I EOC. However students also can qualify for the A+ Scholarship based on a score of proficient or advanced on a higher level math EOC approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, such as the Algebra II or Geometry EOC. The scores for these higher level EOCs will also be delayed. As a result, we would like to clarify that the accommodations will be available to the 2018 seniors who took the Algebra I EOC, or a higher level math EOC approved by DESE, in 2017-2018.


The accommodations include a temporary waiver of the Algebra I EOC requirement for either mid-year or spring graduates of the senior class of 2018 who are impacted by the delayed release of the Algebra I or higher math EOC scores. This allows the impacted seniors to receive A+ Scholarship reimbursement pending release of the EOC scores.


Under the temporary waiver, A+ designated high schools will delay affixing the A+ stamp to the transcript for the impacted students until DESE releases the EOC scores. In place of the A+ stamped transcript, high schools must provide a letter with the unstamped transcript. At a minimum, the verification letter must include language that indicates the student is included in the waiver population and is otherwise eligible for the A+ Scholarship program. High schools may include the sample language provided below in the letter, and may also include other information determined to be beneficial to their unique student population. The letter must be on high school letterhead and signed by the A+ coordinator or a school administrator.


A+ Administrative Rule Updated

In September, the Missouri Department of Higher Education began the process to amend the administrative rule for the A+ Scholarship (6 CSR 10-2.190). The six amendments resulted from statutory changes made during the 2016 legislative session, questions posed by members of the A+ community that required regulatory guidance to ensure consistent program administration, and the need for policy clarification. The rulemaking process is now complete and the amendments became effective March 30, 2017.

Two of the six amendments stem from the enactment of Senate Bill 638 (2016):

· Addition of the definition of an A+ Designated High School as one that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has determined meets the designation requirements and has been approved by the State Board of Education. This change reflects the expansion of the A+ Scholarship Program to include non-public high schools.

· Expansion of the good citizenship requirement to include consideration of a student’s participation in the Constitution Project of Missouri.

Another two amendments resulted from questions posed by the A+ community:

· Addition of the definition of an eligible program as one that leads to a certificate or degree, and meets the federal Title IV financial aid requirements or is a prerequisite for a program meeting the federal requirements.

· Clarification of the definition of Federal Sources of Funding to exclude campus based aid. As a result of this amendment, the A+ award does not have to be reduced by any campus-based aid a student receives regardless of the source of the funds. However, it still must be reduced by other aid the federal government makes directly available to the student, primarily the Pell grant.

The final two amendments clarified or codified existing policy:

· Direct incorporation of all statutory high school eligibility criteria into the administrative rule. Previously, some of the statutory criteria were directly incorporated while others were incorporated only by reference to the statute. This change also codifies MDHE’s guidance that to meet the statutory three-year attendance requirement, a student’s enrollment at all A+ designated high schools attended during the three-year period immediately prior to graduation must total a minimum of 80% of the instructional days required by the high school. Interruptions in enrollment, either consecutive or concurrent, may cumulatively total no more than 20 percent of the instructional days in the three-year period immediately prior to graduation.

· Addition of MDHE’s standard disbursement and delivery policy, which specifies awards will be sent to the institution to be delivered to the student’s account, and the institution will retain the portion owed for expenses and promptly give the student any remaining funds.

As a reminder, the rulemaking process for these amendments began shortly after other changes became effective on July 31, 2016. Those amendments, which were summarized in a message dated Aug. 1, 2016, included:

· Amendment of the definition of Full-Time Student to specify if the institution has a higher threshold for full-time enrollment than the 12 hours (6 for summer) provided in the rule, the student must meet the institutional definition.

· Addition of the definition of Positive Net Disbursement, which results when a student’s disbursement(s) less returned funds for a term is greater than zero. This definition was needed because the completion requirement (see next bullet) only applies to students with a positive net disbursement.

· Addition of the requirement that all students complete a minimum of 12 hours for the fall or spring terms, or 6 hours for summer, to be eligible for the next term. Students enrolled in clock hour programs must complete 90% of the clock hours required for the federal payment period.

· Addition of the requirement that initial students have a 2.0 cumulative grade point average at the end of the fall semester to be eligible for spring.

· Revision of the citizenship requirement to specify a student must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to qualify. This change resulted from the enactment of Senate Bill 224 (2015).

· Clarification that the 50 hour tutoring/mentoring requirement must be completed prior to graduation, except a high school’s policy may allow students to complete the requirement up to six months beyond graduation in exceptional circumstances reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

· Amendment of the Algebra I end-of-course exam policy to remove references to specific exams, providing MDHE flexibility in setting the acceptable alternatives for students who do not score proficient or advanced on the Algebra I EOC.

· Clarification that good citizenship must be maintained in grades 9-12 to meet the requirement that the student maintain a record of good citizenship and avoidance of the unlawful use of drugs and/or alcohol.

The amended A+ Scholarship administrative rule (6 CSR 10-2.190 on page 24), with all of the changes listed above, is located on the Secretary of State’s website. If you have any questions about any of these amendments, please contact:

Connie Bestgen, financial aid specialist

800-473-6757, option 4, 573-751-1772, or connie.bestgen@dhe.mo.gov

A+ Alternative to the Algebra I EOC Requirement for 2018 Seniors

Each spring, during A+ students’ junior year, the Missouri Department of Higher Education announces the alternative(s) available for those who do not achieve a score of proficient or advanced on the Algebra I end-of-course exam. This announcement allows the juniors sufficient time to establish eligibility before graduation. In keeping with this policy, this message provides information about the Algebra I EOC alternative for the 2017 juniors in the graduating class of 2018.

The 2018 high school seniors who do not achieve a score of proficient or advanced on the Algebra I EOC, or a higher level math EOC approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, must have a combined ACT math score and high school GPA in accordance with the following scale:

ACT Math Score High School GPA

17 or greater and 2.5 or greater

16 and 2.8 or greater

15 and 3.0 or greater

This scale reflects placement practices in use by some institutions. It also recognizes that student success may be predicted by more than a single test score.

Although the COMPASS exam has historically been an alternative to the Algebra I EOC requirement, that exam is not an option for the 2018 seniors as a result of ACT’s complete phase-out of the exam in November 2016. Since it is extremely difficult to accurately equate a placement exam score with a score of proficient or advanced on the Algebra I EOC, the COMPASS exam will not be replaced with other placement exams, such as Accuplacer, as an alternative to the A+ Algebra I EOC requirement. As a result, the ACT math/high school GPA scale is the only alternative to the Algebra I EOC requirement available to the 2018 seniors. In addition, it is the only path to eligibility for the majority of private high school students who do not have access to the state’s end-of-course exams.

The scale only applies to students who do not have a qualifying score on the Algebra I EOC, or a higher level math EOC approved by DESE. This means students who have achieved a qualifying EOC score are not required to meet the alternative scale’s criteria, although they still must meet the program’s requisite minimum 2.5 GPA. This includes private high school students that transferred from a public high school after receiving a qualifying score on the Algebra I, or a higher level math, EOC.

The Algebra I EOC alternatives available for the 2017 seniors are available on MDHE’s website, which has also been updated with the information above for the 2018 seniors. The alternative(s) for the 2019 seniors will be announced in spring 2018.

If you have any questions, please contact:

Connie Bestgen, financial aid specialist

800-473-6757, option 4, 573-751-1772, or connie.bestgen@dhe.mo.gov

Amy Haller, financial aid specialist

573-526-7958 or amy.haller@dhe.mo.gov

Kelli Reed, student assistance associate

573-751-2444 or kelli.reed@dhe.mo.gov