A pilot program to provide scholarship money to former Laramie County Community College students who want to return to school has been well received after launching last year, the college’s president said.
The Rediscover LCCC program is funded from three sources. President Dr. Joe Schaffer said that an estate donation has been applied to helping students who are in the field of business. Its main contributor however, is the John P. Ellbogen Foundation, which is currently funding the program at $600,000 for the next three years. The LCCC Foundation also raised provided funds for this. Schaffer said he wants to raise more money for this project but is hoping that Wyoming lawmakers will see the need from research on this program for the next three years to establish it at the state level.
This program was inspired by the state of Tennessee’s program, called “Tennessee Reconnect,” which also provides financial aid to past students looking to return to campus. Schaffer said that Rediscover LCCC is “proof of concept or demonstration project. Our primary interest is in trying to create a motto that the state could adapt as a statewide scholarship program.”
To qualify for “Rediscover LCCC” potential students must meet the following criteria:
- Must be at least 25 years old.
- Have not already received a degree.
- Field of study has to be one of the courses that the college requires or offers.
- Be a Wyoming resident for three years, which was an increase from the original requirement of one year.
- File for FAFSA.
- Must be a full-time student.
- Maintain a GPA of 2.5. This has also been another change from 2.0.
The main focus is on adults whereas other scholarships only help those who have just completed high school. This helps the older generation stay competitive for jobs with professional businesses that require degrees to obtain a good-paying job. Examples include jobs with, computers, administrative assistant, accounting, etc. These businesses also want the person to have experience, which also can be a hindrance when trying to break into the job market.
Common reasons why adults do not attend college at all or attend for a short time and don’t finish include cost, balancing a full-time job, or the desired degree is not offered.
With Rediscover LCCC, the college has provided a way for full-time workers to still go to school by paying for all the tuition and fees up front. Schaffer said that students may also be eligible for other forms of financial aid, including grants, scholarships and loans. From that, the student can work part time and still receive an education.
Rediscover LCCC has some limitations in which degrees students can pursue. When asked if this affected the enrollment, Schaffer explained that the field of Health Sciences and Information Technology had a very good outcome for those who applied to that particular field. The college did meet its goal of 100 students for the first academic year. The most prominent age applying for the scholarship, according to Brandi Payne Cervera, who is the director of LCCC’s Financial Aid, are people in their 30s.
The college publicized the Rediscover LCCC program through social media and mailings. Schaffer said they hit the public in three ways:
- Social media, such as Instagram, Facebook, etc.
- Letters to students that applied but never came.
- Letters to former students who earned credits but no degree from LCCC.
Schaffer said the most successful effort was contacting former students who earned credits but not a degree. The program info will be publicized again soon ahead of Fall 2019.
LCCC hopes to raise $1.5 million for the program and at the moment has succeeded in raising about $1 million.
Schaffer said he sees this program as a great achievement, especially in reaching the goal of 100 students the first time it was introduced to the public. Shaffer pointed out LCCC’s goals are to “re-engage the population of adults, get them into programs that are aligned with needs and opportunities in the state, get them successfully through the program and then on to their next step which would be a job…”
There is no guarantee that the students in these fields will get the exact job they’re looking for, but each of the programs that this scholarship offers are designed to complement local jobs in Wyoming that the school is seeing a high demand for.
LCCC has created a new idea for other community colleges to follow, including Sheridan College, which is working on a program that is “similar in concept” but not the same, Schaffer said.
Shannon Wagner is an LCCC student who is taking advantage of this scholarship and is hoping to finish and obtain her associate’s degree in cybersecurity by spring 2020. She said she has the opportunity to take all of her classes online, which is a great help as she lives in Lovell (which is about a 7 hour drive away) and works a full-time job.
Wagner was introduced to the scholarship through social media and, “decided to apply, figuring the worst that could happen would be getting a, ‘no.’”
When asked why she wanted to take the scholarship, she said, “I felt like it was a good time in my life to try going back to college and getting a degree, even just an associates.”
Having attended college for two semesters she realized it wasn’t where she wanted to be; now she wants to pursue a degree that she feels she is qualified for.