More adults in the state can receive funding for postsecondary education and training to join the workforce thanks to legislative changes made to the Fast Track Incentive Grants in the 2022 Legislative Session. Employers are seeing the benefits.
Sarah Hanak is the chief nursing officer at Citizens Memorial Hospital and said they benefit from the Fast Track program as many scholarship recipients come to work at their facilities.
“Trying to find people willing to work in rural health can be challenging and even more so to find quality candidates,” Hanak said. “I think Fast Track appeals to people in the small communities we serve who thought health care was something they’d never get into because they didn’t have the money to go to school. This removes that barrier.”
What is Fast Track?
The Fast Track Incentive Grant is a financial aid program administered by the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development targeted at adults 25 years old and older, without an earned bachelor’s degree, and earning below certain income levels.
The legislative change allows students to apply funding to an expanded list of training providers and registered apprenticeships as long as the programs are within the Office of Workforce Development’s Eligible Training Provider System.
Although the revised program requires an individual to be a Missouri resident for two years prior to receiving the grant, active-duty service members and military spouses are exempt from that requirement.
The legislation also modified claw-back provisions that were keeping some adults from using the program and allows apprenticeship costs under the Fast Track program.
Bolivar Technical College sees the success of Fast Track firsthand
Charlotte Gray is president of Bolivar Technical College (BTC) and said Fast Track perfectly fits the students at her school.
“They are the working adult, non-traditional students, and most have families,” Gray said. “They literally don’t have the money to go to school, and they wouldn’t be able to go without Fast Track.”
Gray has husbands and wives, as well as brothers and sisters, taking their education journey together and says they couldn’t do it without Fast Track.
“It is the best financial aid I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been involved in higher education for 27 years,” Gray said. “The state hit it out of the ballpark with this one.”
The Fast Track program helps adults finish their degrees.
“These folks went one or two years in college and then left to get into the workforce, because they had to have an income,” Gray said.
The Fast Track program is helping employers fill critical job openings.
“Fast Track is aimed at high-demand jobs, like nursing, and they pay great,” Gray said. “Most of our students are getting an average of four job offers before they graduate.”
BTC graduates go to work at Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, as well as Cox and Mercy hospitals in Springfield.
“It’s a very simple process, and this program is giving people the opportunity to have a job that they can feel good about,” Gray said. “It changes people’s lives because it gives them confidence in their abilities.”
Ozark Technical College leads in Fast Track recipients
Jordan Schreiber is the college director of admissions at Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC). She said they have 98 students involved in the Fast Track program with the majority of those, 45, studying the health sciences, which includes nursing, dental hygiene and surgical technology.
“Many are looking for a new career, and they say, ‘Now is my chance to do this,’ or others see this as a chance to move up by getting training that can help them get a promotion.”
Schreiber said anyone and everyone should be looking at Fast Track as a potential funding source for their education.
OTC has done major marketing campaigns to get the word out about Fast Track, even targeting former OTC students who did not complete a degree, but have been out two years or more and are now eligible, even if they’re under 25.
Last year, 52 students received Fast Track grant money at OTC. That’s more than all other community colleges in the state combined.
“We’re not asking you to not work for two years,” Schreiber said. “We want to work with you so you can skill up while you’re in your current position.”
Spread the word
To access the 2022-2023 application, visit journeytocollege.mo.gov and click on the State Financial Aid Portal. Applicants should also enroll at the college or university they plan to attend and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the program year in which they’re applying. To learn more about Fast Track and the eligibility requirements, visit mofasttrack.com.