The Missourian asked candidates for state representatives in our region to answer a series of questions, and we're presenting their answers, as they wrote them, in a series of articles.

Today's question: Today's question was submitted by a Missourian reader and selected in an online poll — "As a high school senior who is worried about the cost of college, what are your solutions to the astronomical cost of higher education?"

Cheri Toalson Reisch, Republican, District 44

College is not for everyone. We need a skilled work force. I support the continued funding of the A-Plus program that gives students two years of Junior College or State Technical School free tuition.

Maren Bell Jones, Democrat, District 44

First and foremost, millionaires and billionaires do not need more tax breaks that drain the revenue from our state’s budget while students trying to benefit themselves and society have to pick up the tab. We as a state need to start looking into higher public education and job training programs as investments into our society. We need to move towards making higher education tuition free as an investment for Missouri that will keep our best and brightest in state.

Cathy Richards, Republican, District 46

State Government needs to stop cutting higher education’s budget. When money for education is cut, the cost of tuition goes up. However, for your part in education, be in tuned to your choice of degree now. Decide with the help from high school counselors and family as to what jobs are needed to be filled and gear the degree to that field. Because, if you choose wisely, your education will pay for itself over time. Also, apply for every scholarship and grant you qualify for. The first time or second time you get a low score on your ACT or SAT, then take it again. In addition, the governor’s workforce development plan is an excellent solution for the students who find college not for them. Learning a good trade before graduating can be just as beneficial towards a successful career.

Martha Stevens, Democrat, District 46

We have seen a decreased amount of support from our state over the last 30 years when it comes to funding our public institutions of higher education. The burden of costs has been shifted to students. I hope to continue to be an advocate to speak up for increased investment of state dollars into higher education. Local State Representative Kip Kendrick has worked on legislation to address this critical issue by filing legislation around refinancing options for Missouri graduates. Rep. Kendrick has also proposed legislation that is intended to help bridge the gap between education and post-graduate employment with his State Work Study Program. I hope to support these efforts if re-elected and explore additional policy solutions.

William Hastings, Green, District 46

Actually, education is already free. What you are paying for at places like the University of Missouri is accreditation or licensing. The solution to the high cost of accreditation is to allow students to learn on their own and pass a test, sort of like a GED for college. The students can study when they want, at the time and pace they find best, and using the methods that work best for them. They are tested when they are ready. It would save money by saving the cost of lots of professors, management, and coaches. It would free up students from the lecture method, the least effective means of teaching. Regarding those present students with student loans, those who can afford to pay should pay. Those who can’t should be allowed to file for bankruptcy and get released from their burden and get on with their lives.

Adrian Plank, Democrat, District 47

We need to properly fund our education. We need to invest in technical IT schools, that way we can be specific on we Missourians are getting trained on, so we can attract certain business to our state. For example Amazon, Apple and IBM will be more likely to come to our state if our workforce is trained for those jobs.

Chuck Basye, Republican, District 47

Basye did not submit a response.

Sara Walsh, Republican, District 50

In the legislature, I serve on the Budget Committee, and we worked to reverse cuts to higher education as part of an agreement with the state’s colleges and universities that will keep tuition increases in check so that higher education remains affordable for Missouri families.

Michela Skelton, Democrat, District 50

Higher education is an investment in the future of Missouri and we need increased funding to higher education that focuses on academic needs and reduces administration costs so we can provide a debt free college education for Missouri students. Additionally, we need to raise the minimum wage so that college students can afford basic living expenses with part time work to further reduce the need for working class families, and particularly rural students who do not have the option of living at home while in school, to take on debt to meet those basic needs.

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