By Stevi Breshears, Ranger Editor ¦
Amarillo area high school students now have a new way to pay for college: the Thrive scholarship program. Students at all Amarillo Independent School District high schools are eligible to receive the Thrive scholarship, as long as they maintain an overall average of 80 or better with no serious behavior issues.
“There are statewide programs, but this is unique to Amarillo, and we think it’s special,” said Bob Austin, the vice president of enrollment management at Amarillo College. “There are literally hundreds of local students who are going to be enrolling at Amarillo College this fall who will get to attend free of charge. We’ve never had that before.”
The new scholarship program covers the cost of tuition, books and fees for 60 credit hours or three years at AC – whichever comes first. While students are enrolled at AC, they don’t need to maintain a certain GPA or number of classes to keep the scholarship. As long as they are in good academic and financial standing, the scholarship is there. The clock starts ticking at the beginning of the fall semester following high school graduation, so students are encouraged to enroll in classes right away and get as much as possible done with the help of the scholarship.
“The Thrive scholarship is a community based scholarship that was put together through a partnership of local entities, which include the Amarillo Area Foundation, Amarillo College, Amarillo Economic Development Corporation and AISD,” said Austin. “Basically, what we’re trying to do here as a community is increase the college-going rate of our residents.”
To get the scholarship, students are asked to apply for admission to AC, apply for financial aid, and register for classes.
“Thrive is what we call a ‘last money in’ scholarship, so we ask all students to apply for admissions to AC, and for federal financial aid. They don’t necessarily have to qualify to receive federal financial aid, but we ask all students to apply,” Austin said. “As far as that goes, it’s relatively simple.”
A ‘last money in’ scholarship means that the Thrive scholarship is the last piece of financial aid to be applied to a student’s account. All other scholarships and financial aid are applied first, and then Thrive covers whatever is left over.
Federal Financial Aid applications can be found on the FAFSA website, and a new form should be filled out every year.
“Each year the Department of Education releases a new FAFSA. The 19/20 FAFSA will be out there and ready to process Oct. 1. You want to make sure your student is submitting a new FAFSA each year as it becomes available,” said Kelly Steelman, the director of financial aid. Steelman also noted that it is not too late to apply for federal financial aid, or scholarships through the AC Foundation.
For students who need help navigating the world of financial aid, the financial aid office on the second floor of the student services center on the Washington Street Campus has extended hours through the month of August. They will be open Monday-Thursday from eight to seven, and Friday from eight to five.
Previously, many AISD students attended college with the help of the ACE scholarship program. The Amarillo Area Foundation and partners Amarillo Independent School District, Amarillo College and West Texas A&M University began the program in 1994 at Palo Duro High School. The program later expanded to include Caprock High School, and eventually Tascosa High School students from certain elementary schools. The program covered tuition, fees and books at AC and/or WT for students who met certain criteria until it’s end earlier this year. While it is no longer accepting new students, those who signed the ACE program contract at the beginning of last year can still keep their scholarships, so long as they meet the requirements.