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MONTICELLO — Ivy Tech Community College officials in Monticello hope their proposal to offer financial aid and fee assistance to White County high school students will go a long way toward keep those students from moving away after they finish their education.

And they hope White County will assist them in the endeavor.

Called the “White County Promise,” the program would provide high school graduates from Twin Lakes, North White, Frontier and Tri-County with two years of “last-dollar” scholarship funds, meaning the county would provide financial assistance after the application of other grants, scholarships and gift aid. It would not include costs for textbooks, supplies or IncludeEd eLearning books, even if considered necessary for enrollment.

“Anything that comes first is paid first, then White County would pick up the back side,” said Patricia Plantenga, site manager for the Monticello campus.

She said the program can begin as soon as the second eight weeks of the academic year and would begin, if the proposal were approved, with this year’s class. This year’s fall enrollment is up 30 percent over last year, she added.

“Just to give you a number on that, we have 79 (students) from White County that applied for Ivy Tech Community College. At my site, I have 35 of those 79,” she said. “Of those 35 — and this is pretty normal across the board, financial aid-wise — about 75 percent are Pell-eligible or grant-eligible.”

For one year of education at Ivy Tech, plus the mandatory technology fee, costs $4,500.30.

“If you take the 75 percent of that off the top for that Pell-eligible student, it would cost the county approximately $1,100 per student per year,” Plantenga said. She referenced a similar program created by the city of Frankfort, which budgeted a flat $50,000 for its students.

The program would require the county to provide between $38,500 (35 students) and $86,900 (79 students).

“The most simple way is to give an amount to Ivy Tech and let us handle the students and their funds,” Plantenga said, “Otherwise, White County would have it do it by individual student at a time. … You have to trust me, trust my staff, trust Ivy Tech Lafayette to do whatever we can to fill your workforce.”

Plantenga said the advantages of the program would help White County over the long haul.

“As site manager, I need to get these students to stay in White County and fill your jobs that are out there,” she told the White County Commissioners. “Increased job placement is what we’re after for you. Students will be encouraged by me and others to remain within the county.”

A critical component of the White County Promise program, Plantenga said, is the “wrap-around” services students will receive from a local college connection coach, advisor and community mentors who will guide them as they enter higher education and continue the path over the two years.

Once in the program, students must meet all the following requirements to retain the scholarship:

• Maintain satisfactory academic progress defined as the equivalent of a 2.0 cumulative GPA and a 67 percent completion rate, and complete the identified academic program within two academic years that may include two summer semesters.

• Maintain full-time enrollment (12-15 credits per semester) with at least six to nine credits at the Monticello campus (exceptions can be made by the site manager).

• Participate in a for-credit internship program/clinical based upon college accrediting standards with a potential employer as approved by the academic program.

• Not be convicted of use of illegal drugs, or a criminal/delinquent act.

• Provide annual evidence of White County residence.

• Complete an exit interview prior to graduation from the program.

Students would also be required to participate in a minimum of one community service opportunity that may be sponsored by the city, chamber of commerce, Ivy Tech or another approved entity.

“It’s pretty limited. We just want to make a point with the students that, ‘We’re giving to you. We’d like for you to give back,’” said Jim Friend, executive director of resource development at Ivy Tech.

Students will also participate in mentoring and internship opportunities, Plantenga said.

A White County Promise Advisory Board will be established to serve as an advocate for the program. It will include representatives from business, industry, all four White County schools, White County Economic Development board, a county commissioner or county council member, and Ivy Tech officials.

A similar program was attempted a few years ago in White County, but it only pertained to a major-specific scholarship, something Commissioner David Diener noted.

“We’ve tried this before with different programs and have not been very successful, but I don’t think that’s a reason why we shouldn’t try to continue some educational opportunities for people and job-related connections,” he said. “The other thing some people may be aware of — or maybe not — the fees the county receives from use of the physical facility itself are based on students enrolled there. So one hand kind of washes the other here.

“It is important they have enrollment, and I think it’s also important that the county shows the intent to participate in continuing the education of students.”

The commissioners took the proposal under advisement and plan to discuss it further for inclusion on the Sept. 3 meeting agenda.