by Victoria Usher
The Ventura College Foundation is accepting applications for its Ventura College Promise Grant Program, which will give nearly 1,000 Ventura County high school graduates their entire first year of Ventura College free of charge. The Ventura College Promise Grant Program encourages students to further their education and reach their academic goals. For the 2016/2017 academic year, the Promise Program served 946 students, providing $329,000 in financial assistance.
So far this year, the Foundation has received 744 applications for the Promise Program. “The Ventura College Promise Grant Program is unique. In addition to providing financial assistance, it removes many barriers to higher education and provides students with critical support, so that they can complete college,” said Ventura College Foundation’s Jaimee Hanna. “We connect students with health services, a food pantry, and academic counseling,” Hanna said. “In addition, the Foundation’s textbook lending program saves students hundreds of dollars.”
The Ventura College Promise Grant Program, launched during the 2005/2006 school year, and it was the first Promise Program offered in California. Students come from all over the county, the highest numbers coming from Oxnard, Santa Paula, and Ventura. Improving the college-going rate in the community is something that could be helpful in enhancing the quality of our local workforce.
The most popular areas of study for Promise students are nursing, business, psychology, and engineering. The Ventura College Foundation will be awarding a total of $48,400 in Phoenix Scholarships to re-entry students—individuals who must learn new skills and return to school to do so; or who have chosen to return to school after a break in education. Each recipient will receive a scholarship ranging from $500 to $5,000.
Phoenix Scholarship recipients are selected based on their academic goals and progress, along with their financial need. In its 19th year, the positive impact of the Phoenix Scholarship program is reflected in its results: 63 percent of recipients are first-generation college students, 33 percent are single parents and 63 percent are pursuing education and training in the growing health-related fields of nursing, paramedic and emergency medical technology (EMT). “Finding the money and the time to pay for and attend college when you’re already working a job and/or caring for a family requires commitment and sacrifice.
Often, re-entry students are part-time students and, therefore, do not qualify for most traditional scholarships or financial aid,” explained Anne King, Ventura College Foundation executive director. “The Phoenix Scholarship, by taking care of most of the student’s direct educational expenses, makes it possible for these students to continue their education, rather than abandoning their goals,” Ventura College Foundation Board Chair Rob van Nieuwburg said back in 1999. The Ventura College Foundation board members recognized there was an adult student population struggling to pay for college when they were already balancing school with working and caring for a family. “The board was inspired by these student’s tenacity to overcome personal challenges in order to attend school and upgrade their skills to make a better life for themselves and their families,” he said.