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R-JENERATION: Students weighing financial concerns

For most high school students, it’s a familiar route: Go to school, get a diploma, attend college, then settle into a career. However, in today’s economy, detours have become the norm.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Great Recession that started in December of 2007 officially ended in June of 2009, but Nevada still is suffering. As of September, the state’s unemployment rate stood at 14.4 percent, with the rest of the country hovering around 9 percent.

A 14.4 percent jobless rate means that nearly 200,000 Nevadans are unemployed, and the majority of those households have children. The recession’s impact on Nevada’s graduates is apparent in the new paths they face.

Michael Gantt, a recent graduate of Shadow Ridge High School, has put his college plans on hold to save.

“It was a money situation,” Gantt says. “I can’t go to college as soon as I would like to because of money, but I will get there.”

Gantt currently is working two jobs. He plans to move to San Diego and attend a trade school to pursue a career in audio production. Right now he is living with his parents rent-free.

If a break in education isn’t an option, there are financial aid options available, especially for students who choose to attend a college in Nevada.

The Kenny Guinn Millennium Scholarship is open to all students who have attended a Nevada high school for at least two years and obtained a diploma. Recipients must also have a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.25. The Millennium Scholarship can be used for up to six years of college and pays $80 per credit for up to 12 college credits per semester, according to Reba Coombs, executive director of the program.

About 23,378 students are taking advantage of the scholarship’s benefits, but it currently does not meet the total cost of higher education, Coombs says, something students and parents must take into account.

Shandrea Stampley, a recent graduate of Northwest Career and Technical Academy, saw the benefits of the scholarship and took advantage.

“Honestly, it wasn’t my first choice to stay in Las Vegas, but the money I’m saving and the extra time that I’m able to spend with my family is worth it,” says Stampley, a pre-nursing major at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to college in another state and experience something new, but the Millennium Scholarship is too good a deal to pass up,” Stampley adds.

Another popular option for valley teens is going north. The University of Nevada, Reno provides an out-of-state feel with all the benefits of staying in state, including Millennium eligibility.

“At times, I miss Las Vegas. I miss my family, especially my parents, and the home-cooked meals, but I absolutely would not have made any other college choice,” says Dylan Hutchings, a freshman and civil engineering major at UNR.

Hutchings has used all financial aid possible to help pay for his college tuition. His package consists of the Millennium Scholarship, two private scholarships and a combination of programs through Federal Student Aid.

UNR, about an eight-hour drive from Las Vegas, has seen a 5 percent increase in the number of Nevada students who choose to attend the university.

“I think this is an opportunity that all students should have. Getting out of Las Vegas, you get a better overall education,” Hutchings says. “You become more responsible, you have to do your own work, it’s your job to make sure you go to class on time. It basically teaches you how to grow up.”

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