Helping Students with Loan Repayment
Dear Citizens: During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill (HB 297) to expand an existing education savings program to help students with loan debt. The legislation expands Missouri’s 529 Education Plan (MOST) to include student loan repayment and apprenticeships.
Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, who oversees the program, thanked the General Assembly for passing the bill. He said, “By making costs related to apprenticeships an eligible expense, MOST 529 continues to be a tool that can help Missouri families prepare their children for success—regardless of their post-secondary education goals. I am grateful for the work of the General Assembly to make these important changes that will benefit Missourians at many stages of their financial life.”
MOST is a tax-advantaged savings plan for education expenses. Money in MOST accounts can be used to pay for K-12 tuition, and trade, college, and graduate school tuition and expenses. Contributions are eligible for state tax deductions, which can save families up to $864 a year, and assets in MOST 529 accounts grow tax free.
The legislation passed this year follows an expansion at the Federal level under the 2019 Secure Act. Should the Governor sign the bill, beginning August 28, MOST 529 eligible expenses will include up to $10,000 of student loan repayment. Additionally, certain expenses, including tools, fees, textbooks, and supplies related to apprenticeships will also be eligible. An apprenticeship program must be registered with the Secretary of Labor’s National Apprenticeships Act in order for costs to be covered using a MOST 529 account. Citizens can learn more at MissouriMost.org/MoMoney.
Helping Young People Make Informed Decisions about Their Future (HB 297). Another provision contained in HB 297 is meant to help young people and their families to make informed decisions about their future. Known as the Students’ Right to Know Act, the new law will ensure pertinent information on educations costs and job potential is compiled and presented to students and parents in an accessible manner.
Beginning January 1, 2022, the bill requires the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development (DHEWD) to annually collect and compile specified information to help high school students make more informed decisions about their futures and ensure they are adequately aware of the costs of four-year college and alternative career paths. The document must be available to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for distribution to public school guidance counselors by October 15th each year. The information provided by the public institutions is also required to be available on the website of the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development.
Improving School Bus Safety (House Bill 661) Another bill passed during the 2021 legislative session contains a provision meant to improve school bus safety for all Missouri students. The bill will create the Joint Task Force on School Bus Safety.
The task force will study school bus transportation safety, including analyzing entrance and exit safety, the effectiveness of seatbelts and other related issues. The joint task force will consist of two state representatives, two senators, the commissioner of education, the director of the Department of Transportation and the director of the Department of Public Safety. The task force will meet at least three times a year to develop an annual report analyzing school bus transportation safety. The legislation requires the task force to submit their report to the governor and General Assembly by Dec. 31 of each year.
For more information, contact Representative Patricia Pike at [email protected] or call 573-751-5388.