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July 17, 2014 Volume 35, No. 33

Benefits program offers staffers chance to finish high school courses for free

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MU High School online has 200 courses and 3,500 students enrolled

The University of Missouri System currently offers eligible employees a steep discount per credit hour for college-level courses. Now, in an unprecedented benefits option for higher education workers, Total Rewards and MU’s College of Education have teamed up to offer employees the opportunity to complete high school courses online at no cost.

In addition, the program will discount the price of books and other materials, thanks to an agreement with MBS Direct, a textbook and digital text provider based in Columbia.

The two-year pilot program beginning in August is a partnership with the College of Education’s MU High School (part of Mizzou K-12 Online), MU Human Services and MBS Direct. MU and System eligible employees can take advantage of the benefit.

 If the pilot is successful, the program might be extended to the System’s other three campuses.

“The ‘last mile’ of finishing a high school diploma can seem like a far-off dream for some,” said Zac March, director of Mizzou K-12 Online. “But the staff and teachers at MU High School are here to support and encourage the staff who sign up for the program.”

A Rising Tide

MU High School is a fully accredited institution established in 1998 and administered by the College of Education. It offers 200 high school courses to students around the world. More than 3,500 students are enrolled.

During the 2013–14 academic year, 135 students received diplomas from MU High School. Among them was Gracie Gold, a figure skater who won a team bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Gold took the online courses because they were flexible with her intensive training schedule. “It’s been really helpful for me to attend MU High School while I’ve been training for the Olympics,” Gold said in a statement to the education college.

 No reliable data exists on how many staffers are without a high school degree, though the number is presumed to be low. Even so, the benefit to eligible employees could be huge.

Kiki Gross, a lead custodian for Residential Life who dropped out of high school at age 15, plans to enroll. Gross, who has also worked as a hospice worker, wants to develop her marketability in service work. “This is a way to change my life and serve others,” she said.

Offering staffers a free and flexible path to the degree is in the best interest of MU, March said. “The saying ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’ is a good description of how this program can improve the education and career opportunities for MU staff and thus help everything associated with the campus,” he said.

College Pays Balance

Seventy-five percent of the cost of MU High School fees are waived through the HR-303 Educational Assistance program. The College of Education will cover the remaining cost. “Offering MU employees the opportunity to earn a high school diploma from an accredited and well-respected entity like MU High School just makes sense,” said Daniel L. Clay, dean of the College of Education.

The rollout of the benefit opportunity dovetails with improvements this fall to Mizzou K-12 Online. Improvements include implementation of the learning system Canvas, which allows students to use app tools to interact in courses, and installation of Genius, which provides a dashboard approach to showing students their scholastic reports and allowing administrative tasks.

For more information on the MU High School pilot program, visit, call 882-7976 or email