Adams State University (ASU) President Dave Svaldi, left, talks with ASU freshman Eric Velasquez, right, after the SLV Promise Award announcement on Wednesday.
Courier photo by Lauren Krizansky
Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — Adams State University freshman Eric Velasquez’ future improved vastly Wednesday morning.
Beginning this fall, ASU will launch the San Luis Valley (SLV) Promise Award program. The program guarantees all qualified low-income students from the Valley region will receive sufficient financial aid to cover the entire cost of their tuition and fees, plus $1,350 for incidental educational expenses for the regular 2013-14 academic year.
“It helps out a lot,” said Velasquez, a 2012 Centennial High School graduate and first generation college student from Garcia yesterday during the official announcement celebration. “I am a low-income student. I’ve already had to take out loans to cover this first year. It’s no problem to cover the first year with my first loan. I’ve had a lot of aid from other Valley scholarships.”
Coming from a school district with a near 90 percent poverty rate and a county with a median household income of $27,300, the chance to have an all expenses paid education makes Velasquez’ dream of becoming an engineer a reality. Today, about 300 students or 15 percent of the ASU student body qualify for the program. In addition, hundreds of up and coming Valley graduates now have another higher education option, particularly Alamosa High School (AHS) senior Gaspar Lucas.
“When I come here (ASU), it (the program) will be helping me out a lot,” said Lucas, who fully intends to earn an undergraduate degree as a Grizzly. “I’ve applied for a few scholarships, but I’m not entirely sure if it will cover my whole tuition.”
The SLV Promise Award is funded through Colorado Student Grant funds, increased institutional aid and other grants and scholarships. The financial award is renewable if students maintain a 2.0 grade point average and if they compete 75 percent of attempted credits. Significant cuts in state or federal funding, however, could impact that plan.
“Our priority is to keep education affordable and accessible,” said ASU President Dave Svaldi during the announcement ceremony. “We all know low-income students can benefit the most from earning a college degree. We want to continue to provide this opportunity.”
Overall, the program will cost ASU about $500,000 and it is built on a packaging model modifying existing programs, which include Federal Pell Grants coupled with state financial aid. ASU hopes this funding opportunity will help offset the substantial financial blow to both student and institution from the Federal Pell Grant changes that went into effect last year. Since 2011, ASU has lost almost $2 million in federal dollars, and over $3 million in state support.
“We had 150 students that lost all Pell eligibility,” explained ASU Vice-President of Financing and Governmental Relations Bill Mansheim about some students now deprived of around $5,500 for their education. “Some of them we were able to help like those who were close to getting a degree. Others we were not able to.”
The SLV Promise Award will go hand-in-hand with ASU’s Finish in Four program, he said. Finish in Four encourages students to take 15 more credit hours a semester to make an undergraduate degree in eight semesters. One program incentive is that every credit after 12 hours is free.
“Students need to get through the system more quickly,” Svaldi said. “If you do that, you are going to keep your Pell eligibility, you will get into the workforce more quickly. You will save money and you won’t build up so much loan debt.”
Valley superintendents said they were more than pleased to see ASU continue to make higher education an option for their graduates, especially because the Valley is responsible for at least one quarter of ASU’s freshman class.
“I applaud ASU for their ongoing efforts to offer post secondary educational opportunities to local and regional high school graduates,” said Alamosa School District Superintendent Rob Alejo in an email after hearing about the program. “I hope the SLV Promise Award prompts many upcoming high school graduates to be the first in their families to pursue higher education.”
Del Norte School District Superintendent Nathan Smith added, “What a great opportunity for our Valley graduates... We have had students that have been accepted to college and in the end have not attended because of financial limitations. With this award all Valley graduates that qualify have an opportunity to further their education. This looks like an excellent program.”
Moffat Consolidated School District Superintendent Kirk Banghart agreed, “Moffat Consolidated School District continues to applaud ASU with their commitment to the children of Moffat and Crestone. We are excited for our students that they have an opportunity to continue their education here in the Valley.”
Center Consolidated School District Superintendent George Welsh also spoke on behalf of his students.
“The students of Center Schools will greatly appreciate this,” Welsh said in an email. “With approximately 90 percent of our students coming from low-income families, an opportunity like this is exactly what they need to kick start the college careers we have been working so hard to prepare them for. Kudos to ASU for establishing a program like this that could so significantly impact the entire San Luis Valley.”
SLV Promise Award Criteria
To qualify, new and continuing students must:
• Are eligible for full Federal Pell Grant and qualify under Expected Family Contribution of Zero
• Have an admission index of 80. An 80 Index Score is equivalent to a 2.4 high school grade point average combined with a 19 ACT or 900 composite SAT score. Lower ACT/SAT scores can be combined with higher grade point averages in order to reach an 80 Index Score and vice versa.
• Been admitted to ASU and be making Satisfactory Academic Progress
• Complete their FAFSA by June 1
• Register for full-time fall classes by June 1
• Graduate from one of the 22 Valley regional high schools, which includes the 14 Valley districts and John Mall High School, La Veta High School, Pagosa Springs High School, Buena Vista High School, Chaffee County High School and Salida High School. Students from these schools are also eligible for Grizzly Partner Award, which provides a discounted dorm and meal plan rate worth $3,200 or a 40 percent discount.