Future Scholarship program may run out of money this fall
A program to provide college tuition to graduates of Laurens County high schools is in danger of running out of money. Laurens County Future Scholarship (LCFS) pays all out-of-pocket tuition costs for high school graduates after all state and federal funding is applied to students attending Piedmont Technical College and USCU at Laurens. The program began paying tuition costs in 2015 and has enough money to pay for the 2017 fall semester before running out of funds. LCFS is administered by the Laurens County Community Foundation (LCCF). “The Future Scholarship program is in dire straits,” Dr. Cynthia Jones, chairman of the community foundation, said. “If we don’t get more money, we can afford one more semester.” Robin Day, LCCF executive director, said the students receiving the scholarships are majoring in manufacturing (28%) and healthcare (25%), with 26% seeking an advanced four-year degree. The average GPA of Future Scholarship students id 3.25, Day said, with a retention rate (those who return to school the following semester) of 91%. The average retention rate is usually in the low 60% range, Day said. The Future Scholarship fund is paying for between 85 and 109 students and the average cost to LCFS is $537 per student. Based on applications, the number of students is expected to increase “significantly,” she said. Future Scholarship is supported financially by contributions from individuals, with the majority of the funding coming from five entities – the City of Clinton, the City of Laurens, the Town of Gray Court, PRTC and GHS/Laurens County Memorial Hospital. LCFS paid out $36,000 during the just completed semester with $26,000 going to Piedmont Tech and $10,000 going to USCU at Laurens, Jones said. The number of Laurens County graduates taking advantage of the program has grown and will continue to grow, she said. Jones estimated the current need is $50,000 per semester, which is the amount currently in LCFS’s endowment with LCCF. Jones and Day both said anyone can help support the program. The Future Scholarship committee is targeting major employers in the county, but success has been limited. Greenwood County began a similar program – The Greenwood Promise – this year. Greenwood Promise has $5 million in pledges with $1.5 million on hand. Most of the money has come from industries, Jones said. The Greenwood Promise awarded scholarships the first time for the spring, 2017 semester. Day sent an email May 3 to Piedmont Tech, USCU at Laurens, Clinton High School, Laurens District 55 High School and members of the Future Scholarship committee informing them of the Future Scholarship’s precarious financial position. The Community Foundation board voted May 2 to instruct Day to send the email. “On behalf of the Laurens County Future Scholarship, our board of directors has requested that I notify you that Laurens County Future Scholarship tuition funding and scholarship awards to students for Fall 2017, and thereafter, are contingent on funding revenue being received by the Future Scholarship program. At this time awards are not guaranteed and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis as funding revenue is received and once again becomes available.” Day said that seeking continual funding is a top priority “and all efforts are being made from various sources in order to continue this program, which strengthens Laurens County and benefits all its residents in a lasting way.” Donations can be made online (www.futurescholarship.org) or can be mailed to Laurens County Community Foundation, PO Box 1836, Laurens, SC 29360 (note in the memo the check is for the Laurens County Future Scholarship). Donations are tax deductible.