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Another Arkansas community establishes scholarship program
Close on the heels of the announcement that Arkadelphia High School students will be eligible for a community-funded scholarship, and not too many years after the announcement of the El Dorado Promise, comes the announcement of the Great River Promise Scholarship for students in Phillips County.
We received the following press release just moments ago, and as you read it, we urge you to consider the ease with which Columbia County could create a similar scholarship program for our own youth. With Southern Arkansas University right here in Magnolia, and several outstanding two-year schools in neighboring communities, we think there’s no time like the present for Columbia County to jump on board the scholarship train.
Read on for the press release from Phillips County to get the details of the scholarship program for their students.
HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark.—The Great River Promise college scholarship program for Phillips County, Arkansas, high school graduates has been established with a $263,000, three-year matching grant, the Delta Bridge Project announced today.
The Great River Promise provides gap scholarship funding for graduates of high schools in Phillips County to attend Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas (PCCUA). Students are eligible to receive Great River Promise scholarships after exhausting all other scholarship and financial aid programs first—including programs such as federal Pell Grants and the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship, but excluding loans.
The Great River Promise pays the difference between whatever students receive in scholarships and financial aid and the cost of tuition and mandatory fees at PCCUA.
To receive Great River Promise scholarships, students must attend four years at any Phillips County high school; graduate with a high school diploma; be accepted as a student at PCCUA and enroll in the fall semester after graduation; achieve a 95 percent attendance and punctuality record over the four years of high school; and have no drug or drunken driving offenses. Once at PCCUA, students must enroll for at least 15 credit hours per semester and maintain a 2.0 GPA.
The Phillips Community College Foundation has pledged to raise $250,000 to match the Delta Bridge grant and to create a $500,000 Great River Promise Endowment to ensure sustainable program funding. The PCC Foundation also has secured a federal Title III grant to help fund the Great River Promise scholarship program. Available annual interest from the PCC Foundation’s $674,000 Title III Endowment and the Great River Promise Endowment will be used to fund Great River Promise scholarships.
Dr. Steven Murray, Chancellor of PCCUA, explained that the purpose of the Great River Promise was not just addressing the financial need of current or prospective college students, but also motivating K-12 students to achieve at all grade levels.
“The Great River Promise tells our young people from a young age that college is a possibility for them, something they should be aiming for,” Dr. Murray said.
In a spring 2008 Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) of PCCUA students, 64 percent of those who participated in the survey said they were somewhat likely, likely, or very likely to drop out of PCCUA due to a lack of finances. The CCSSE is a project of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.
The Delta Bridge Project is Phillips County’s collective response to the past several decades of economic stagnation and population out migration. The Strategic Community Plan is the guiding document for the initiative and sets out community goals in the key areas of education, economic development, housing, leadership, and health care.
The Great River Promise addresses Education Strategic Goal Three of the Strategic Community Plan, which seeks to “initiate programs designed specifically to improve literacy and mathematics aptitudes for students in Phillips County.”
Delta Bridge has supported more than 70 projects in those key areas over the past five years, including community cleanup efforts; the Boys & Girls Club of Phillips County; Southern Place Apartments; the Delta Area Health Education Center; the creation of a sweet potato storage facility; the King Biscuit Blues Festival; a low-interest downtown loan fund; a teen court and youth diversion program; and a number of public education initiatives.
The Delta Bridge Project is facilitated by Southern Bancorp in collaboration with dozens of community partners. Phil Baldwin, Southern Bancorp President and CEO, said that the Great River Promiseexemplifies one of Southern’s long-term transformational goals—to reduce the high school dropout rate and increase college attendance in the communities served by Southern.
“Southern Bancorp strongly believes that cost alone should not be a barrier to students furthering their education,” Baldwin said. “The Great River Promise will play a critical role in helping Phillips Countyhigh school graduates secure a two-year degree and potentially go on to earn a four-year degree.”
More information about the Great River Promise is available at www.pccua.edu.