Sandhills Community College is implementing a program to provide full two-year scholarships for all students from Moore and Hoke counties.
Called the “Sandhills Promise,” the scholarship program will begin in the fall of 2017. It provides for two years of free tuition for Moore County and Hoke County students enrolling at Sandhills directly following high school graduation. Home-schooled students are also eligible.
To be eligible for the Sandhills Promise scholarship, students must have at least a C average in four courses through SCC’s College Promise dual enrollment program during their high school careers. For the program’s first year, only two dual enrollment courses will be required.
The college will cover any unmet tuition costs after the students apply for financial aid.
“We will know that these kids have taken four classes from us, they’re doing good work, they’re serious about their education, they’re thinking about their education in the 10th grade, not when they’re 22, and they’re here to do serious work,” said Dr. John Dempsey, SCC’s President. “We are going to have a scholarship for all of those kids.”
Dempsey said the effort will mean that virtually every student at Sandhills will graduate without debt.
"There's no financial reason why 100 percent of students who graduate from Moore County and Hoke County high schools should not go to college," he said.
Ed Dennison, vice chairman of the Moore County Board of Education, said the program provides an opportunity for students who can't afford college.
The community college track is an increasingly popular option both for post-secondary education and for current high school students. The numbers for SCC’s dual enrollment program have seen a sharp rise over the last three years to around 500.
The prospect of a free two-year degree may prove an enticing alternative to a four-year liberal arts program, or an additional incentive for students to consider options like nursing and health science as a more direct pathway to stable, well-compensated employment.
The Sandhills Promise program will be funded through the college's foundation by soliciting funding primarily from area businesses, as potential employers of the school’s future graduates.
The idea behind Sandhills Promise “is not a new idea; we’ve been talking about this for years and years and years,” said Germaine Elkins, executive director of the SCC Foundation.
“This is our way of promising to the community that we can have an educated workforce, we can have an educated citizenry and we can do for our kids something that most communities are not able to do,” Dempsey said.
"It really shows a vision," said Dennison. "This is unprecedented."
Dempsey said college officials are excited about the program.
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