Counties urged to support scholarships


ALAMOSA — Counties have a unique opportunity to help students obtain scholarships for Adams State University and Trinidad State Junior College, Lori Laske recently reminded Alamosa County commissioners.

Laske, left, who serves as executive director of alumni and donor relations for the ASU Foundation, approached Alamosa County officials about supporting the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) with a match from the county of approximately $5,000-10,000. The county commissioners have not yet made a decision.

Laske said she has already received commitments from Conejos and Costilla Counties and will be meeting with the rest of the counties.

Laske said the year before when she presented the subject to the SLV County Commissioners Association she realized that the match is more difficult to make in rural areas where fund-raising opportunities are limited. So Laske went back to the Colorado Department of Higher Education with her concerns. As a result the department reduced the match for the scholarship for specific counties in the state. The announcement regarding the reduced match eligibility was made in January, and Laske has been following up with Valley counties since then.

Created in 2014, COSI was a good fit for ASU and TSJC, Laske said, as it provides another method to help make higher education affordable and accessible.

“I am asking you to partner with the ASU Foundation and TSJC to invest in our community and educational opportunities for students,” Laske told the commissioners.

Multiple grants are available including an institutional grant for which the ASU Foundation provides matching funds as well as the county grant for which Laske was asking support from Alamosa County. The goal of this scholarship is not just to get students enrolled but to bring them through to graduation and back into their communities to serve, Laske explained.

Accompanying Laske to the commissioners’ recent meeting was COSI recipient Marisol Lucas, a first-generation college student born and raised in Alamosa. The first semester senior is majoring in sociology with an emphasis in social welfare and hopes to intern with the Alamosa County Department of Human Services this fall.

“I want to stay in Alamosa,” she said. “Even though I have had many opportunities to leave, I want to give back to our community. I hope I can stay here locally and I am on a path of doing that.”

Lucas has been involved in a mentoring program at ASU and is currently mentoring freshmen and sophomore students.

Mentoring is one of the requirements for COSI recipients. They must also be available to assist with tutoring and counseling.

Laske asked the county for a match of between $5,487 to $10,975 based on the special fund for reduced matches of 25-50 percent of the $21,949 allocated for the fiscal year 2017-2018 for Alamosa County students. She said the reason for the range is because until the grant application is filed she will not know what the county’s reduced range will be.

Laske added the county’s match would actually leverage up to $43,898 for 43 scholarships of $1,000 to be shared between ASU and TSJC. The $1,000 scholarship would be for an academic year, $500 per semester, Laske explained.

“When we can take $5,000 and leverage it to create $43,000 this is an opportunity that I would really like the commissioners and the county to consider,” Laske said, “and you are investing in your future.”

She added, “We are doing this in partnership because we want to educate the students in Alamosa County.”

She said this academic year (2017-2018) Adams State has 332 students enrolled from Alamosa County and TSJC has 275. Based on financial aid projections for the student body, 65 percent of those students would be eligible for the COSI grants, she added. One of the eligibility requirements is 250 percent of Pell Grant eligibility.

“We definitely will be able to have recipients for that scholarship,” Laske said.

Commissioners asked if recipients had to be Alamosa County residents or if they could be county employees or children of county employees. Laske said that was one of the requirements that the recipients for Alamosa County-matched COSI grants had to live in the county, but she believed the other counties in the Valley would probably also be involved in the scholarships so wherever the student lived should be covered. She said she would check with the state if those guidelines could be altered.

As it stands, Alamosa County recipients must have graduated from Alamosa High School or Sangre de Cristo High School. For other counties, the students must live in those counties and must have graduated from high schools in those counties, she explained.

They also must be full-time students (taking at least 12 credit hours) and maintain a certain grade point average.

The scholarship can be used for tuition and fees, not living expenses, and although the tuition varies among the student body because ASU offers guaranteed tuition, the tuition and fees generally run about $9,100 a year, Laske said. A scholarship of $1,000 towards that would be significant, she said. She added that because one of the requirements for the scholarship is 250 percent Pell Grant eligibility, these would probably be students who would be receiving Pell Grants as well. She said about 91 percent of ASU students are receiving some sort of financial aid including student loans. The COSI scholarships could and likely would be combined with other scholarships the students are receiving, Laske explained.

Laske said the funds would be divided proportionately between the two institutions according to student enrollment. Currently the split is 60/40 between ASU and TSJC, she said, but that could change based on enrollment.

As long as funding is available through the state, the COSI scholarship program will be available, she added.

“I am wanting to look at this as an investment and giving back,” Laske said. She referred to a Sanford University study that indicated college graduates were 1.7 times more likely to vote, 2.3 times more likely to volunteer and 2.6 times more likely to be involved in their communities.

She asked for the county’s commitment by April 10 so she could submit the Valley counties’ applications for the reduced match. Commissioners said they do not meet again until April 11 and would like to wait until then, which Laske said should work.

She said the funds will be competitive between 37 designated counties and will be awarded on a first come, first served basis.

“I am very competitive, and I don’t want to lose out,” she said.

Commissioner Helen Sigmond said she was supportive of this but would have a conflict in voting for it since she serves on the ASU Foundation board.

Commission Chairman Darius Allen said the county is supportive of both ASU and TSJC but would need to see where it might be able to find funding for a match. The commissioners will check with the county financial officer to see if there are any funds available, he said.

Commissioner Michael Yohn added that the county is already supporting the university with $10,000 a year.

Laske said she appreciated all the support from the county towards ASU.