John Miller, Williston State College president: Regional scholarships transform Williston State
WILLISTON, N.D. – The Williston State College Foundation’s efforts to support students through various regional scholarships can best be described as “transformational.”
The WSC Foundation and Williston State College offer eligible, regional full-time students many scholarship opportunities that fund tuition and fees for up to two years, or four consecutive semesters.
Williston State serves northeastern Montana and northwestern North Dakota, and the WSC Foundation’s scholarship programs support Williston State’s local recruitment. These programs enhance a traditionally fertile recruitment region for the college, drawing on the close economic and cultural ties that have long existed in the area.
The WSC Foundation leverages oil and gas leases, production assets, general endowments and gifts to support local scholarship programs.
The scholarship efforts began in Fall 2015 with the Williams County Graduate Scholarship funded by the WSC Foundation, the Alva J. Field trust and the North Dakota Challenge Fund. Thanks to the scholarship, graduates of a Williams County high school, regardless of year, are eligible for free tuition and fees at Williston State. Those who’ve earned a GED in the county also are eligible.
During the first year, 344 full-time students received scholarships. This accounted for a full 33 percent of the WSC student population.
In 2016, the Regional County Scholarship was created for the five counties surrounding Williams County, and a year later, the scholarship added five counties in Montana. The Regional County Scholarship is only available for recent graduates, including GED holders who earned their equivalency diplomas in those counties.
During the second year, 428 full-time students received scholarships. This accounted for 41 percent of Williston State’s student population.
In 2017 when the program expanded into five Montana counties, 310 full-time students received scholarships, accounting for 28 percent of WSC student population.
Over three years, the WSC Foundation has funded more than $4.8 million in scholarships to 983 students. With continued program growth projected, annual foundation support will soon exceed $2 million.
For Fall 2018, the Foundation expanded yet again to cover nearly half of eastern Montana, western North Dakota and into southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba with its Academic Achievement Award.
The Fall 2018 Academic Achievement Award will cover $1,500 per semester for four consecutive semesters (excluding summer) for eligible southern Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba students.
Aside from increased scholarship opportunities, the program has fundamentally impacted the campus. From 2014-2018, Williston State grew at an overall rate of 16 percent, averaging 5 percent annual growth. The implementation of a $1,000-per-semester housing scholarship tied to regional scholarship recipients provides students an additional incentive to attend Williston State, fostering further growth.
When looking at two-year community college demographics across the nation, it is very common to find more part-time than full-time students. Because students must maintain full-time status, the scholarship has unintentionally changed Williston State’s demographics.
In 2014, before the program, the college’s part-time student population was 52 percent compared to a full-time population of 48 percent. But since the program began, the proportion of part-time to full-time students has reversed. In the fall of 2017, 56 percent of WSC students were full-time and 44 percent were part-time.
Ultimately, the power of the Williston State College Foundation and the scholarship programs lies in how they impact students. In the area covered by the program, some 1,400 high school seniors every year have the opportunity to explore Williston State as an alternative for affordable and quality college education.
Given the increasing costs associated with a college education, it is no surprise that a lack of financial resources still leaves many as “have nots.” The WSC Foundation and its generous donors have committed to “upping the ante” each year as they expand their program.
This scholarship program supports the college’s mission to provide accessible, affordable, life-changing and lifelong educational opportunities to our region. These scholarships have removed financial barriers for families from the communities we serve.
And the scholarships have transformed lives, our campus and our community.
Williston State College
The WSC Foundation encourages anyone interested in donating to contact them at 701.572.9275.
For complete details on this each of the WSC Foundation scholarship programs, please visit www.willistonstate.edu/foundation or call 701.774.4200.