A new Missouri grant initiative could help people pursue their degree in a more cost-effective manner while contributing to the state’s workforce in the process.

The Fast Track Workforce Initiative Grant is a new financial aid program this year, and it is designed for adults who are 25 or older or individuals who have not enrolled in any school within the past two years. The grant also is designed to serve students who have not earned their bachelor’s degree.

Should a potential grant recipient apply for one of the approved programs at an eligible institution (which includes both Missouri Western State University and Northwest Missouri State University) as well as meet the various qualifications listed on mofasttrack.com, the grant is designed to ensure that, when combined with other governmental financial aid, tuition and fees are fully covered.

“I really think that it’s a great program for adult learners. Maybe they’ve already started a degree four or five years ago, and now there’s a program out there that can help them come back to school and obtain a degree and have it paid for,” Marilyn Baker, Missouri Western’s director of financial aid, said. “Money always seems to be the object that gets in the way for students going back to school, so developing this program will really help students.”

She went on to say current students enrolled in those eligible programs and who meet the criteria also have been notified of the grant. Ten Missouri Western students have applied for the program so far.

The Fast Track grant also requires potential recipients file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and create a state student financial aid portal login to complete their application. Only those who make no more than $80,000 filing jointly or no more than $40,000 as an individual per year are eligible.

Finally, should that student graduate with help from the grant, they must maintain Missouri residency and work in the state for three years following graduation. Otherwise, the grant turns into a loan.

“Fast Track grew out of conversations with people around the state of Missouri: Everybody from local educators, community leaders and business owners to statewide chamber executives and leaders of big statewide businesses,” Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education Zora Mulligan said. “One of the concerns that we heard from legislators was the idea that we would make this investment in our state’s workforce, but the people might take those skills over the border and not be contributing back to Missouri’s economy, and so that was added in the legislative process.”

The grant can be renewed every year provided the recipient maintain a 2.5 cumulative grade point average.

Mulligan said around 400 individuals have applied for the grant so far, though that number rises week by week.

“I think it’s important to note that it’s a significant investment in the people and the state of Missouri,” Mulligan said. “The opportunity to go back later in life and have someone invest in the cost of your education is really a substantial change, and I hope lots of people are able to take advantage of it.”

For more information on how to qualify for the grant as well as apply for it, visit mofasttrack.com.

Daniel Cobb can be reached

at daniel.cobb@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowCobb.