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TSJC aid could give cash back for college

Posted: Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Interim TSJC President Dr. Charles Bohlen and CTE Advisor Krystle Cantu help introduce TSJC’s First Choice slate of scholarships and grants that could result in students receiving cash back for attending college. Courier photo by Ruth Heide

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — In a time when college students often have to acquire lifelong debt just to get a degree, Trinidad State Junior College is offering a new program that could actually give them cash back for going to college.

“A lot of our families do not have lots of income,” said Interim TSJC President Dr. Charles Bohlen. With that in mind, TSJC administrators developed First Choice scholarships, an array of scholarships that not only add up to big savings but even cash back for students.

“We want students to see us as their first choice, and we want to see our students as first choice,” Bohlen said at the unveiling of the First Choice scholarship program. “Students are very important to us. We want them to recognize we are here to help them be successful.”

Bohlen said a national tragedy is the fact that student loan debt is now higher than credit card debt in the U.S.

“That’s really a significant figure.”

Once a student accumulates a large student loan debt, it is almost impossible to get rid of it, even through bankruptcy, Bohlen added.

TSJC hopes to help students avoid that kind of debt to begin with.

The new First Choice scholarships available now at TSJC include:

• Automatic Merit Scholarship for students graduating from high school with 3.0 (B) grade point average or better: $360 merit scholarship per semester for students graduating from high school with 3.0-3.499 GPA; $480 for 3.5-3.799 GPA; and $600 for 3.8-4.0 GPA.

Bohlen explained that this applies not only for students who just graduated from high school but those who may have taken a few years in between high school before deciding to go on to college. Their high school grades still make them eligible for the merit scholarships.

• Red Carpet Scholarship for those who attended TSJC’s Red Carpet Days. Just for attending the Red Carpet college days on campus, students may receive $250 per semester scholarship or $500 for two semesters.

• Pell grants, which are not loans and do not have to be paid back. A student receiving a full Pell grant would receive $2,823 per semester. Pell grants, which are federal grants, are based on need.

• Colorado Student Grant, $750 per semester, available to residents of Colorado who demonstrate financial need.

Other scholarships are also available, such as art/music/theatre scholarships, concurrent enrollment scholarships, new student scholarships and President’s Scholarship.

Bohlen said these scholarships could be stacked on top of each other to provide an even greater bang for the student buck.

For example, a full time student (taking 15 credit hours) who earned automatic merit for a B average in high school (3.0-3.499 GPA), plus the Red Carpet Scholarship, Pell and Colorado Student Grants would receive $4,183 financial assistance for one semester. The total fees and tuition for that semester would total $1,960 at the Valley campus, leaving the student with $2,223 “cash back.” That amount would be even greater for a student with a higher GPA from high school.

Bohlen pointed out that the “cash back” should not necessarily be considered as money in the pocket free and clear but should be used for student expenses such as books, tools, gas to get to and from college and living expenses.

For students living on campus at Trinidad, there are also scholarships available for housing.

“It’s our way of saying ‘we want TSJC to be your first choice,’” Bohlen said. “In my opinion it’s one of the best.”

He added, “We are just excited about this program, this great new scholarship program to bring students to our college.”

These scholarships are available now, and students do not have to fill out mounds of paperwork to get them, Bohlen added. The automatic merit scholarship only requires a copy of the student’s high school transcript, for example.

Bohlen encouraged students and their parents to consider the economic benefits of going to school locally as opposed to traveling out of state. Although it might appeal to a young person to leave home and spread their wings after high school, it might not be an economically sound idea.

“There’s some point we want to reach the parents also,” Bohlen said. “There’s a point where parents need to sit down with the young person and have a reality check.”

Even if a student does not qualify for all of the First Choice scholarships and grants, there will probably be enough financial assistance locally to make it worth their while to attend school here, where they can stay out of debt and have money left over for expenses.

In addition, staying in the Valley for college increases the likelihood of a student remaining in the Valley afterwards, Bohlen said.

Bohlen concluded that the First Choice assistance is not a one-time promotion but will continue to be available in years to come.

Those interested in learning more may go to www.trinidadstate.edu or call 589-7000.

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