More than 9,000 high school seniors have applied to attend the College of Southern Nevada tuition-free next fall as part of the new Nevada Promise Scholarship.
Now, the college is seeking hundreds of mentors to help these future scholars successfully navigate their way toward a college degree.
Established by the Legislature earlier this year, Nevada Promise is a so-called “last-dollar” program that pays any tuition and mandatory fees not covered by federal aid or other state programs, such as the Millennium Scholarship and the Silver State Opportunity Grant. The scholarship was open to Nevada residents 20 years or younger who will earn their high school diploma or GED during the 2017-18 academic year. The deadline to apply was Oct. 31.
Maria Marinch, executive director of inclusive learning and engagement at CSN, says the college had no idea how many applicants to expect with the new scholarship, which was modeled off a successful program in Tennessee.
“We thought maybe 5,000 or 6,000 (applications), but we didn’t have much to base that off,” she said. “We exceeded that but we are very happy about it.”
CSN is the only community college in Southern Nevada, therefore the only one participating in the Nevada Promise Scholarship. The state’s other participating institutions are Great Basin College, Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College. Those colleges reportedly received just over 2,800 applications combined.
That CSN attracted the majority of applicants isn’t surprising. CSN is the state’s largest community college, with approximately 35,000 students enrolled. About half are considered full-time students taking at least 12 credits.
According to Marinch, the administration doesn’t yet have aggregate data on who their thousands of applicants are, but she says that anecdotally staff have fielded a lot of phone calls and emails from people who might not otherwise consider extending their education beyond high school.
“A lot of folks that were not considering college because of different challenges — the financial component, or maybe they didn’t feel like they had the support — have expressed interest. I’ve heard, ‘I wasn’t considering but now I want to go.’”
Unlike the Millennium Scholarship and Silver State Opportunity Grant, Nevada Promise does not have a minimum GPA requirement and covers remedial courses, which a majority of high school graduates are placed into when arriving at community college.
Another distinguishing component of Nevada Promise is its mentorship component.
“When students come here, we will gear them toward their professional and career interests and maximize exposure to it,” says Marinch. “Mentoring is a great opportunity to guide them with important knowledge.”
Marinch says CSN is aiming to bring aboard 1,500 mentors for a 1:5 ratio of mentors to students. Mentors do not need to have prior mentoring experience and the commitment requires a minimum of two to five hours over the course of an academic year, mostly in the form of facilitated conversations during events at a CSN campus or local public high school.
“We’ll be guiding them through the entire process,” says Marinch.
The Nevada Promise Scholarship is only being offered to students graduating high school during the 2017-18 academic year. Proponents hope initial interest and success will persuade the 2019 Legislature to make it a permanent offering.
The Legislature approved $3.5 million for the pilot program. If not enough funds are available to cover all applicants, money will be allocated based on when the applicant submitted their completed application. Marinch notes that it’s difficult to project how much each student will receive because the amount depends on availability of other financial sources and the scholarship does not have a designated cap like others do.
“We are going to work very closely with students to find options to get them in,” she said. “There are ways to make that happen. The fact that we are working with them so early on is going to make a difference.”
Anyone interested in signing up to be a Nevada Promise mentor can do so at online at csn.edu/promise-mentor.