A+ program adjustments impact international students

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Caylea Ray

Junior Ethan Howards assists preschoolers for the A+ program. One requisite for the program is a certain number of hours for tutoring.
International students may soon find themselves paying $217 per credit hour to attend classes at a two year school despite participating in the A+ program. Recently the program has clarified that if a student does not have U.S. citizenship, he or she must pay the international fee. Even after a student has already attended a two-year school on the A+ scholarship, his or her scholarship will be dismissed.
“My students are devastated,” ELL teacher Lila Ben Ayed said. “Many of my students have been working toward fulfilling requirements in order to earn their A+ scholarships. Now their dreams are going to be … more difficult to realize.”
The A+ program has been around for more than 10 years at RBHS, offering students the chance to receive two free years at a community college by having good attendance, a 2.5 GPA and 50 hours of unpaid tutoring. International students with the A+ scholarship go from paying nothing for a two year school to paying the international fee.
“Statistically, education is the primary factor in breaking the cycle of poverty. Not all of my international students are living in poverty, but many of their families face financial challenges as they integrate into a new culture,” Ben Ayed said. “The opportunities for advanced education that the A+ scholarships provided was invaluable to many of my students. Without those scholarships, attending college is not going to be a possibility.”
The A+ program has given students the opportunity to receive two years free at a community college but there have always been requirements. One requirement was that the student had to be a Missouri resident.
Kip Kendrick, Missouri Rep., said when the president issued the executive order, creating the deferred action childhood arrival status for the dreamer generation, the status gave the A+ Scholarship Program the ability to open it up to arrival students entering America This act allowed the deferred action childhood arrival students to no longer be classified as  illegal immigrants, and . This change allowed the council in the Missouri Department of Education to open up access which upset people who wanted to close that option off.
[quote]My students are devastated. Many of my students have been working toward fulfilling requirements in order to earn their A+ scholarships. Now their dreams are going to be … more difficult to realize.[/quote] “When they closed it, the bill not only contained language that would bar the docked students from accessing A+, but required the public universities to charge international or out-of-state tuition,” Kendrick said. “That was never implemented prior to this [the bill], so not only are students barred from the A+ Scholarship, but you also charge a higher rate of tuition.”
Many students of University of St. Louis and University of Missouri completed the A+ program prior to attending a four year university were affected by this change. Still, A+ coordinator Jordan Alexander is encouraging international students to stay in the program and gain citizenship. Since the change has been added onto the the A+ program requirements, RBHS has not had any international students quit the program.
“Students can apply to A+ and then work on receiving citizenship status. We often have students who are not citizens but are wanting to become naturalized and they can work with resources here in town,” Dr. Alexander said. “By the time they are ready to graduate, it is possible they could have citizenship status [and] have access to the A+ funds.”
Unlike students who have citizenship, international students are furthermore not eligible for any financial grants or loans from FAFSA.
“International students can’t qualify for any state loans or grants, and at this point are really just applying for private scholarships and private grants,” Kendrick said. “So my biggest concern is that it’ll just cut off higher access education for a lot of people.”