[Opinion] – New college scholarships available to Minnesota students

Students who have prepared for college by taking rigorous courses in high school usually receive higher grades in college. But now thereâÄôs another possible bonus âÄî a $1,200 scholarship from the state of Minnesota. As school resumes this month, I want to make sure students and their families are aware of a new state program that provides scholarship money to those who complete a more difficult academic schedule in high school. The new Achieve Scholarship Program is designed to address two critical barriers to college attendance: lack of academic preparation and financial access, according to their website. The program provides scholarships up to $1,200 to be used at a public or private college in Minnesota. The scholarships are available to Minnesota residents who graduate from high school after Jan. 1, 2008. Therefore, those students who graduated this past spring and are now beginning college are the first students eligible for the program. As designed, the program awards scholarships to students with a parental adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 who complete college-preparatory courses, such as four years of English, three years of math, science, and social studies, and at least one year of a foreign language. Or, as an alternative, students can demonstrate that they earned college credit for courses in the advanced placement or international baccalaureate programs. Students have 30 days after beginning a post-secondary term to apply for the scholarship in that term. Minnesota residents have up to three years after graduating from high school to apply for the program. Scholarships are up to $600 a semester, with students required to complete one semester before the second $600 is available for a second semester. Detailed information on the program and application materials can be found online at www.getreadyforcollege.org. Click on âÄúPayingâÄù then âÄúFinancial Aid You DonâÄôt Repay,âÄù and then âÄúMinnesota Achieve Scholarship.âÄù The program is designed to encourage high school students to take college preparatory courses. Ideally, high school students and their families will check out the requirements prior to college so students can sign up for a course of study which will allow them to qualify for the Achieve program when they begin college or technical school. I worked for passage of the Achieve program because we have high expectations for Minnesota students and want to help them reach their full potential. Unfortunately, we have been finding that too many students entering post-secondary schools are not academically prepared for the work. This can lead to dropping out of school or the need to take remedial courses, which costs students both time and money. I would like to see students coming out of high school better prepared for the rigors of post-secondary education, and hopefully, the Achieve Scholarship Program will give them an added incentive to take a more challenging course of study in high school. As the mother of a son in college, I know additional financial aid is always welcomed by families, especially during difficult economic times. With the cost of tuition, books and living expenses, every dollar of financial aid is important. I strongly encourage Minnesota students to reach for their maximum potential, and to look at programs like Achieve to help them continue their quest for academic excellence. Sen. Claire Robling (R-Jordan) is the lead Republican senator on the Higher Education Budget Division. Please send comments to [email protected]