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Two new scholarships make Adult Degree Completion even more affordable

A woman sits at a picnic table outside with her laptop and a coffee.

Western one of two institutions in Colorado chosen to partner with Earn to Learn.

  • Western’s Adult Degree Completion (ADC) program has grown by 50-100% per year since starting in 2021.
  • The ADC program was one of only two programs in Colorado chosen to partner with Earn to Learn, an Arizona-based nonprofit that helps qualified college students save $500 per year for their schooling and then matches that investment 8:1.
  • Western started a second scholarship opportunity for students in the ADC program, the Horizon Scholarship, which will provide $2,500 per year for up to 60 students.

 

The cost of college isn’t only a consideration for first-time students. It’s also a major barrier for the 40.4 million Americans and 800,000 Coloradans who have earned some college credit but stopped short of earning a degree. In fact, “finances” is the number one reason people don’t finish the degree they started.

To help break down the financial barrier, Western Colorado University’s Adult Degree Completion program is introducing two new scholarship programs in the fall of 2024 that have the potential to change the way would-be graduates calculate the cost of completing their college degree.

 

A successful model comes to Colorado

Western was one of only two institutions in Colorado chosen to partner with the Arizona-based non-profit Earn to Learn (ETL), which helps qualified college students save $500 per year for their schooling and then matches that investment 8:1, turning their $500 into $4,500.

Since its founding in 2013, ETL has helped more than 3,000 students earn their degrees, with a graduation rate of 80% for scholarship recipients. That’s nearly 20 points higher than the national average. Earn to Learn, which had limited its scholarships to students in Arizona, is expanding into Colorado for the 2024-25 school year, working with Front Range Community College and Western Colorado University.

Director of Adult Degree Completion Terry Schliesman said the goal is to qualify 30 students in the ADC program for Earn to Learn funding in the 2024-25 academic year.  Selected students will receive advice and programming from ETL on how to build college savings, as well as general lessons on personal finances.  When students are able to save $500, they receive $4,000 to spend on tuition and fees.

“By partnering with Earn to Learn, we enhance our ability to serve the public by making a four-year degree more attainable for middle- and low-income students in the region,” Western’s Provost, Dr. Jessica Young said. “Through this synergy, we will touch more lives with the power of education. This is a great opportunity for all.”

 

Horizon Scholarship hopes to build on ADC success

Recognizing that enrollment in Adult Degree Completion has grown by 50-100% per year since starting in 2021, the university is increasing its commitment to the program with the creation of Horizon Scholarships.

Intended for in-state students enrolled in ADC, Horizon Scholarships will provide $2,500 per year for as many as 60 students. When the program is full, Western will be investing about $150,000 annually in ADC students.

“Clearly, for adult learners returning to school, paying large sums of money for college doesn’t work,” Schliesman said. “Western is helping address this issue with initiatives like the launching of Horizon Scholarships.”

For more information about the Horizon or Earn to Learn Scholarships, contact the ADC program’s associate director, Eliza Ekstrom Sullivan, at eekstrom-sullivan@western.edu or call (970)943-2997.

 

Author Credit: Seth Mensing
Photo Credit: Courtesy

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