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Nevada community colleges spread word about new scholarship

Nearly two months after the Promise Scholarship became law in Nevada, the state’s community colleges are at a critical point in its rollout.

All high school seniors have until Oct. 31 to apply for the last-dollar scholarship program, which covers student fees after other aid sources have been exhausted.

“It’s a hard deadline,” said Nate Mackinnon, vice chancellor for community colleges for the Nevada System of Higher Education. “This is the point where we need students, families, guidance counselors to realize the potential of the Nevada Promise Scholarship Program and to fill out the application as the first step.”

Mackinnon said the application takes only a minute to fill out, and there’s no commitment by a student to actually enroll in a community college.

“ … but if a student doesn’t fill out the application, they can’t go back and undo that choice,” he said.

Mackinnon and other community college officials are touting this step’s importance after a recent visit to Tennessee. The Southern state is ground zero for the Promise Program model and served as the model for Nevada’s version.

“We learned the ins and outs of the program and the challenges they had when they launched theirs,” said Michael Flores, a College of Southern Nevada spokesman. “They gave us helpful advice on what not to do and great advice on what to do.”

Flores said CSN is working with the Clark County School District on communicating the opportunity to students. He said the district has committed to sending a letter to every high school senior.

“We want to reach a ton of students,” Flores said. “We know there’s a need out there.”

The Nevada Legislature approved $3.5 million for the pilot program during the 2017 session. The majority of the money will likely go to CSN students, as enrollment there far outpaces other NSHE community colleges.

After students apply, they must wait for the application to be reviewed and accepted before moving on to the next steps, one of which is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Tennessee Promise has catapulted the state to No. 1 in FAFSA filings for three years in a row.

“We’re thrilled that Nevada has decided to pursue a Promise program for students in an effort not only to increase the number of students in the higher education pipeline, but the number of students who are earning a postsecondary credential,” said Krissy DeAlejandro, executive director of Tennessee Achieves.

Mackinnon echoed those sentiments.

“I think the ultimate goal of this program is really to help transform the dinner table conversation of students and families in Nevada by making them realize that college is attainable,” he said.

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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