Digging up Education Dollars

By Janet Adkison, Director of Public Affairs & Advocacy of Missouri Farm Bureau

 

How many weeks until summer vacation? If you have a student in your family, I bet they’re quick to answer. High school seniors are counting down the days until graduation, and soon-to-be seniors are ready to fill their shoes.

As they look to future career plans and educational requirements, many students across Missouri share a need for financial resources. They face expensive bills as they pursue the knowledge required for their chosen careers.

According to CollegeCalc.org, the average annual tuition in Missouri for a four-year degree was $17,770 in the 2021-2022 academic year. The average annual tuition for community colleges in the state was $8,809 during the same period.

The cost of furthering one’s education seems daunting, given the numbers. The constant headlines on student loan debt don’t help. But financial aid help is available.

Whether it’s in agriculture or another career path, funding opportunities are available to both high school seniors and other age groups for college and technical training!

Missouri Farm Bureau’s Foundation for Agriculture provides several scholarships for students, including those attending a university or vocational program. The full list is available on our website, mofb.org, and we’re grateful for our sponsors’ and members’ generous support for agricultural education and leadership development.

For college juniors, seniors and graduate students this fall, the National Association of Farm Broadcasting Foundation is helping the next generation of agriculture communicators. These students could receive a $7,500 scholarships or even a $10,000 scholarship. Those applications are due by June 8, 2023. Learn more at NAFB.com

The scholarship program through the National FFA organization is highly recognized. FFA distributes more than $2 million annually, and high school seniors and collegiate members typically apply during the fall semester.

While those three avenues are close to my heart, a fourth route holds a special place too. Do you remember Mike Rowe, the host of “Dirty Jobs”? He started a foundation to help those seeking careers in the trades. From farriers to builders, welders to electricians, recipients run the gamut in trade careers and in age! The scholarships are open to anyone, young or less young, willing to put some ‘sweat equity’ into furthering their skills. The application window is closed for 2023, but bookmark MikeRoweWorks.org and stay in the know for next year.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development reports the Show Me State is third in the nation for completed apprenticeships. The state has already exceeded a goal to have 20,000 apprentices by 2025. Apprenticeships provide the chance for on-the-job training in a specialized career field. Current opportunities are listed at MoApprenticeConnect.com.

Another tool is JourneyToCollege.mo.gov. The website breaks down the process of finding and applying for scholarships and grant programs. It also offers a link to resources specific to your region of the state.

And finally, remember the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA? Students must fill out this application to qualify for both federal and state aid, including Pell Grants. Congress recently made several changes to FAFSA that take effect in the 2023-24 school year, so please do your homework. Luckily, the application questions have been cut from 108 to under 40.

Students should always consult their guidance counselor to help navigate the resources available. The counselor should have updates on many aid programs. Bring them into the conversation so they can also stay alert to any programs that might fit specific needs.

Don’t let financial walls stop you from broadening a lifetime of opportunities. Building relationships and learning what’s available before it’s needed can help students gain direction, and hopefully some funds, to walk into their next stage in life.

I made missteps in my own student loan/college funding process, but I also made some good decisions that saved me headaches down the road. Missteps will happen, but these resources, along with other funding avenues, can guide students toward their next graduation day.