At University High School, talk of continuing education – and the funding sources that go with it – is about as common as the latest chatter about a successful sports team.
For academic counselors like Jenny Bryant, the challenge is ensuring that students qualify for the college squad.
“My job is to tell them about the opportunity,” Bryant said. “It’s their responsibility to follow through.”
In the next few weeks, area students will have the chance to hear more about the layers of financial support available as the Spokane Minority Advisory Resource Team – a local agency that works on behalf of all students, not just minorities – will sponsor a series of informational meetings regarding funding for the 2011-2012 school year. On Sunday, Jan. 23, S.M.A.R.T. will host “College Bowl” at Spokane Falls Community College, from 2 to 4 p.m., an event that will include an opportunity for students to receive help completing and submitting their free application for federal student aid – or FAFSA.
Students who miss the boat at SFCC this Sunday can attend one of two remaining FAFSA meetings – one at the downtown YMCA, 930 N. Monroe, on Saturday, Jan. 29, from 2 to 4 p.m., or Wednesday, Feb. 16, at Havermale High School, 1300 W. Knox, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
In helping pave the way for its students to attend colleges and universities, University High School does its part to get the word out throughout the school year. From messages on reader boards to announcements in monthly newsletters, Bryant said there is a priority placed on dispersing information. The school also brings in representatives from various colleges to speak to kids and parents.
This month and in February, parents can stop by the University counseling office on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings from 7:30 to 8:30 with questions.
Despite all the updates, Bryant said there are some students who put off completing the paperwork until it is too late.
“I think there are those who say they will always get to it later,” she said. “When it becomes a priority, it will be a priority.”
One of the more unique scholarship programs became official in Washington state at the start of the 2007-08 school year. Thanks to a funding allocation from the state Legislature, the College Bound Scholarship provides tuition and book costs for foster children and students who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. Students must sign up as seventh or eighth graders and maintain a 2.0 grade point average through high school, graduate and stay free of felony crimes.
The scholarship covers up to five years of continuing education at in-state colleges, universities and vocational schools, plus $500 annually in book costs. Those who meet the minimum requirements for College Bound must be accepted into a two-year or four-year institution based on grade point average and overall achievement in high school.
“It’s amazing,” Bryant said of the program. “Just an unbelievable opportunity.”
Approximately 25 percent of students in last year’s graduating class at Central Valley High School received “significant scholarship funding” according to counselor Pam Stickney. The process, Stickney said, involves being proactive, completing applications and staying in the competitive mix for the money allotted each year.
“We had a really strong academic class last year,” Stickney said. “They did amazingly well with scholarships.”
The opportunities for post-secondary education involve learning skills in areas like electronics, carpentry, auto mechanics and other trades, Stickney added. Community Colleges of Spokane provides an apprenticeship program that includes avenues for financial support. Other programs like Americorps offer similar beginning career paths.
Like University, Central Valley makes it a priority to distribute information about financial assistance and scholarships on a consistent basis. A parent night last month to discuss requirements of FAFSA drew a standing-room-only crowd.
In addition to grade point average, Bryant said scholarships are also based on a variety of factors including the financial standing of the student’s family community service, essays and leadership.
“A lot of it is about who you are and how you’re spending your time,” she said.
Want to find out more?
To learn more about College Bound Scholarship, go to www.hecb.wa.gov/collegbound or call, toll-free, 1-888-535-0747. To learn more about financial aid, scholarships and grant opportunities, visit www.collegesuccessfoundation.org, www.projectopportunity.net or www.fastweb.com.