SMC unveils scholarship guarantee

DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College’s new “SMC Guarantee” scholarship is available to all new students enrolling for the Fall 2021 semester. Registration for summer and fall 2021 semesters opens March 24.

Students who live within SMC’s taxing district of Cass County and Van Buren County’s Keeler and Hamilton townships are eligible for at least a $1,000 scholarship. Students who reside outside the taxing district are eligible for a $600 minimum scholarship.

By eliminating some college cost burdens the pandemic has exacerbated, SMC can improve degree attainment and, ultimately, economic prosperity in the area, officials said.

“In our district a person with an associate degree or certificate earns a median wage of over $30,000 after a year, while a high school graduate earns a median wage of just $14,000. After five years the gap widens even more,” said SMC President Dr. Joe Odenwald.

This program is designed to help students who have not been to SMC in the last five years, since fall 2016 — recent high school graduates, adults returning to complete their degrees after time in the workforce, transfers who have never attended SMC and college first-timers of any age.

“If you have ever considered continuing your education beyond high school and setting up a brighter future for you and your family, now is the time,” said Vice President of Enrollment and Student Development Mike O’Brien. “We have in-person and online options in over 40 majors to get you started, and our faculty and staff will do everything they can to help students be successful.”

Scholarships are also being enhanced for current students. The college will fund more Green to Gold scholarships, SMC awarded $750,000 of CARES Act funds to qualifying students last summer, granted $800 housing refunds to Spring 2020 residents and HEERF funds from the stimulus package will be directed to current students.

HEERF, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, was created to enable colleges and universities to provide cash grants to current students for expenses related to education disruptions due to COVID-19. The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act allotted $2.2 trillion to provide direct aid to the American people negatively impacted by the pandemic. Approximately $14 billion went to the Office of Postsecondary Education as HEERF.

SMC’s scholarship total is projected to rise from $880,000 for 2020-2021 to almost $1.2 million for 2021-2022.

Eligibility requirements for the SMC Guarantee include:

  • Certificate or degree-seeking students.
  • Post-secondary students must have officially graduated high school or earned a GED.
  • Students must enroll in at least nine credit hours.
  • There is no age restriction. Recent high-school graduates or any adult learners are eligible, so long as they have not enrolled since fall 2016.
  • Dual-enrollment attendance during the five-year period does not disqualify a student from taking advantage of the SMC Guarantee.
  • There is no minimum GPA requirement, though with the award divided half in the fall and half in the spring ($500/$500 in-district, $300/$300 out-of-district), it is subject to satisfactory academic progress.

FAFSA completion is required to make sure students are receiving all of the aid dollars for which they are eligible, since federal financial aid is an important part of the funding equation. For anyone who qualifies for multiple SMC awards, only the highest award will apply.

The SMC Guarantee can be combined with Futures for Frontliners, Michigan Reconnect or outside scholarships, subject to any government restrictions on how those awards must be prioritized.

Application for admission to SMC is free, does not require test scores or essays and can be completed at swmich.edu/admissions/apply.

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