For many college-bound students, the process of seeking out grants, scholarships and financial aid doesn’t start until their senior year in high school (see Credible’s “Financial Aid Prep” timeline for a month-by-month breakdown of milestones in the process).
In Washington, low-income middle school students who dream of attending college have until June 30 of their 8th grade year to apply for a state-sponsored College Bound Scholarship program that helped 19,000 students attend college last year.
What’s the point of requiring kids to sign up for a college scholarship when they’ve still got four years of high school in front of them? To inspire students who otherwise might rule out college as beyond their means to prepare for it instead.
Students who apply pledge to graduate from a Washington high school with at least a 2.0 grade point average, not be convicted of a felony, and apply to an eligible college and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their income eligibility.
Those who graduate from high school and enroll in college within one year can count on the state covering their tuition and some of their fees, along with a small book allowance.
In 2015, 75 percent of students enrolled in the College Bound program graduated from high school, compared to 62 percent of low-income students who were eligible for the program, but failed to apply, the Washington Student Achievement Council reports. It’s the fourth year in a row the program has racked up those kinds of numbers.
The $61.5 million lawmakers set aside for the program in the latest two-year funding cycle lets students seek certificates or degrees at public community and technical colleges, public four-year colleges and universities, independent colleges and universities, and private career colleges. About 56 percent of College Bound recipients attend Washington public and private four-year institutions, and 43 percent go to two-year colleges, WSAC says.
Word about the program has spread. More than nine out of 10 eligible eigth graders signed up last year, and 77 school districts signed up 100 percent of eligible students, according to WSAC.
The need for such programs is clear. Last year researchers with the American Council on Education noted that low-income students were much less likely to enroll in college immediately after high school than they were seven years ago, and that the percentage of low-income students attending college was up only 3 percent from 20 years ago.
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