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Missouri ends funding for free junior year ACT testing

Liberty’s current seniors may have fond memories of a whole day off of school last year to sit in a silent room and fill in the bubbles of what some say is “the most important test of your life.” For Liberty’s current juniors, that changes this year.

The ACT is one of the main pieces of data that college admissions look at when determining the admission status of prospective students. Starting in 2015, the Missouri Department of Education began paying for high school juniors to take the test one time, at no cost to the student. The thought was that by having every junior take the ACT, they may be surprised by their scores and consider college even if it was never in their previous plans. However, to students’ whose plans do not include college, it may seem like a waste of time to take the test.

In July, Missouri governor Eric Greitens announced a budget cut of $4 million for the DOE’s assessment funding, according to the office of the governor. This meant that just two years after the free ACT was offered, it would be gone by the end of 2017. For some Liberty juniors, this was bad news.

“[It’s unfortunate] that they’re not doing the ACT for free, but I’m still going to do it anyway because it’s important for colleges to see that,” junior Dominic Reyes said.

Reyes believes he isn’t at a disadvantage compared to past junior classes who got to take one ACT for free. He will still take it as many times as needs to get a score in the 28-30 range.

When the state determined it would no longer be paying for all juniors to take the test, we discussed what it would cost the District to pick up the fee for all juniors and it was estimated to be about $70,000. It was simply not in our budget to do that.”

— Mary LaPak, Chief Communications Officer of the Wentzville School District

“I’ll probably take it more than one time still, but it all depends on how long it takes for me to get a good score,” Reyes said.

Even though he estimates the change in policy will affect him minimally, he believes people who might not have the financial means will be at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a preferable score.

Some school districts have already announced that they will pick up the cost of juniors taking the ACT. The Wentzville School District has decided not to pick up the cost, although Reyes remains optimistic.

“As long as the money is going to other school improvements, activities and upkeep, it’s not a total loss,” Reyes said.

The Wentzville School District is doing what they can to keep the test within reach of all students, even if the state can’t support the cost anymore.

“We do not have an opinion on the state’s decision to no longer fund the test for all juniors as we understand prioritizing needs within the constraint of a budget,” Chief Communications Officer of the Wentzville School District, Mary LaPak said.

“When the state determined it would no longer be paying for all juniors to take the test, we discussed what it would cost the District to pick up the fee for all juniors and it was estimated to be about $70,000. It was simply not in our budget to do that,” LaPak said.

ACT offers a fee waiver eligible to students who receive free or reduced price lunch. For those who don’t meet the ACT waiver requirements, there are building funds available through school counselors that are set aside specifically for students who need financial help.

In the future, the funding may return for all juniors to take the ACT for free. If it does, they can count on another fun filled day in a silent room.

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The student news site of Wentzville Liberty High School
The Time to ACT