The 2020-21 application for Missouri's Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant is now open.

Fast Track, a state financial aid program, provides tuition assistance to adults 25 and older, or individuals younger than 25 who have not been enrolled in education in at least two years. Grant recipients receive financial assistance to work toward a certificate, degree or industry-recognized credential that fills a high-need skills gap.

Eligible institutions in the Joplin area for grant recipients include:

• Missouri Southern State University, for dozens of certificates and associate degree and bachelor's degree programs.

• Crowder College, for dozens of certificates and associate degree programs across its campuses in Neosho, Joplin, Cassville, Webb City and Jane.

• Cottey College, for bachelor's degree programs in business administration, organizational leadership and secondary education.

The Fast Track program was launched in August 2019 at public colleges and universities, with awards first distributed in January of this year. State lawmakers have since expanded the eligibility to students enrolled at private nonprofit colleges and universities, the state Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development said in a news release.

“Expanding Fast Track to include private institutions and a greater number of high-demand program areas will create more opportunities for adult learners,” said Zora Mulligan, commissioner of higher education, in a statement. “We’re committed to providing education to Missourians of all ages as we work to close the skills gap and contribute to Missouri’s economic growth.”

In the program’s first year, the average award amount was $2,189. Allied health, education and computer science were the most popular program areas among grant recipients.

For an application, or for a detailed list of eligible institutions and programs, go to journeytocollege.mo.gov.