COLLEGE doors are open to far more people today than in previous generations.
High school graduates, and even older, nontraditional students, are making use of grants, scholarships and student loans to defray the immediate costs of higher education.
Many avail themselves of government-aid programs such as Pell Grants. In Indiana, qualified applicants can have their college tuition paid through the 21st Century scholarship program. Children of Hoosier disabled veterans also can have some or all of their tuition covered by the state.
Locally, Columbus area individuals have a wealth of other resources at their fingertips to help them significantly reduce the cost of attending college, most notably through scholarships managed by local foundations or institutions.
Each year, roughly $200,000 in student scholarships is available specifically to Columbus area residents. Unfortunately, a few scholarships go unclaimed because no one applies for them.
The largest repository of these local scholarships is the Heritage Fund: the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, which administers dozens of individual programs. The amounts available range from a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars. Many savvy students apply for several scholarships each year — as they should — in bids to reduce their out-of-pocket college costs.
The community is fortunate to have so many individuals, institutions and companies who have started and continued to fund scholarships within the foundations, with sustainable and beneficial programs to serve eligible and deserving students long into the future.
Through the investment of generous initial gifts, the individual funds generate revenue to fund each year’s scholarship offerings. Some of these scholarships also increase with subsequent gifts, either from the donors or their supporters. This year, one scholarship program administered by the Heritage Fund — the S. Edgar and Delora L. Lauther Memorial Scholarship — increased to four years per recipient.
Some of the scholarships offered are rather narrow in focus, limited to specific fields of study. However, the breadth of all the scholarships available locally is sufficient to insure that a significant number of individuals receive aid in pursuing degrees in higher education.
Information about the individual programs is readily available through high school and college counselors and on various Internet sites. Details of about 75 local scholarships, most of them with Feb. 15 application deadlines, are available at therepublic.com/scholarships, along with instructions on how to apply for them.
Although the greatest number of applicants are graduating high school seniors, many of the scholarships available locally also cover nontraditional students such as adults interested in pursuing degrees more aligned with changes in their choice of careers.
There is no question that acquiring a college degree carries with it a significant sacrifice for students, but the availability of such generous scholarship programs can significantly reduce that burden while at the same time reiterating a communitywide belief that Columbus will have a brighter tomorrow when more of its citizens have educational opportunities today.