Plattsburgh State is set to offer a new scholarship that will provide free tuition for North Country high school graduates starting at the beginning of the 2016 academic year.
The North Country Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship, will be available to students who are accepted to PSUC full-time and graduate high school in June 2016 with a 90 cumulative average or higher.
In addition, students must also have graduated from a high school in one of seven counties that make up the North Country: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis or St. Lawrence County.
Students can receive the scholarship for up to eight semesters as long as they maintain a 3.25 cumulative GPA each semester they get the scholarship. They are also required to live on campus or commute from their home in the North Country.
“That’s how all of our merit scholarships work,” said Carrie Woodward, PSUC associate director of admissions. “Any of merit scholarship programs for students coming from any region require that students live on campus. We like to see some of our best students staying on campus and being more involved. Students do better academically when they’re living on campus.”
Although merit scholarships specifically for North Country students are not a new concept at PSUC, the North Country Scholarship differs in one way.
“We have changed the approach a little bit this year,” Woodward said. “The primary change is we are only looking at the cumulative grade point average, not at standardized test scores.”
Although the scores are not taken into account for the scholarship, they are still required as part of the application process at PSUC.
“I think this (scholarship) is a great opportunity, and I think more students will enroll because of it,” said Melanie Vizcarrondo, a PSUC senior majoring in psychology and art therapy.
Students who are applying for the scholarship must also complete FAFSA and TAP financial aid forms, Woodward said, even though the scholarship covers tuition. Both these forms help determine how much financial assistance a student will receive separate from any scholarship or awards.
“The reason for that, is that the way the scholarship works is that we apply an tuition-specific awards that a student is receiving, like TAP, first, and then our scholarship will make up the difference between the full amount of tuition, minus any tuition-specific awards,” Woodward said.
Even if a student doesn’t receive any financial aid, they can still be awarded the scholarship. In addition, there is no limit on the number of students who can receive the scholarship.
“Last year we had about 50 students who fell within this category who would have been eligible for the scholarship. That is kind of the baseline that we’re looking at now. But we do expect that we will see an increase in applications this coming year,” Woodward said.
Although the requirements for the scholarship specify that eligible students must have graduated from high school in June 2016, Woodward said that exceptions could be made.
“We will also consider transfer students with less than 24 credits,” Woodward said. “As long as those students have earned a 3.0 grade point average or higher in college and would have been eligible for the scholarship as freshmen, then yes, they will be considered them for the scholarship.”
Transfer students must have graduated from high school in the North Country to be eligible.
The North Country scholarship has also had an impact on younger high school students in the surrounding area.
“One of the benefits we hadn’t really considered when we announced it is that students as early as freshman, sophomore year of high school are already starting to think about their grades and whether or not they would qualify for the award,” Woodward said.
Vizcarrondo, who is from New York City, acknowledged the advantages of the North Country Scholarship for students from the area but also said she believes a scholarship like this for students from other areas of the state would be equally beneficial.
“I think it would encourage more people to apply for school and get them more motivated,” Vizcarrondo said.
The funding for this scholarship comes from a variety of donors and organizations, including the College Foundation, a not-for-profit branch of PSUC that accepts donations on behalf of the college and allocates them to programs.
“We work with donors in raising the funds that will help the college in supporting those scholarships, and providing the funds for those scholarships,” said PSUC College Foundation Director Faith Long.
Because the scholarship does not go into effect until next year, Long said it is not possible to know exactly how much money the College Foundation will allocate for the North Country Scholarship. However, she said, she is optimistic about its impact on the college and its students.
“It will have an amazing effect. It will make college more affordable. It will mean students who have applied themselves and worked very, very hard in high school…have taken the most challenging courses, have been there every day in their seats, will get to go to college for free…” Long said.
Email Thomas Marble at firstname.lastname@example.org