A little-publicized educational initiative, part of Senate Bill 391 that passed the Nevada Legislature in June, was the Nevada Promise Program.
A key piece of the legislation is a scholarship program aimed to assist aspiring college students with the cost of attending one of the four two-year community colleges in Nevada: Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Western Nevada College in Carson City, Great Basin College in Elko and the College of Southern Nevada in Henderson.
By 2020, 49 percent of “middle-skilled” jobs in Nevada will require at least a two-year college degree or certificate but less than a four-year degree, according to research provided by The Kenny C. Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit and bipartisan organization that provides analysis on critical issues in Nevada and the Intermountain West region.
“It’s an important piece of legislation to make college more affordable to students,” said Nancy Brune, executive of The Guinn Center. “We have a low percentage of people in the 18-24 age range going to college.”
Nevada legislators had explored the education initiative as early as 2015 after monitoring the success of similar plans in other states. Upon passage of the Nevada Promise Program, the state set aside appropriations of $3.5 million to fund the project over the next two years.
Enrollments have lagged as the costs of going to college have skyrocketed. Data from The Guinn Center indicated registration fees at Nevada community college rose 93 percent between the 2002-2003 and 2015-2016 academic years.
As outlined by the Promise Program, the scholarship will pay for college registration fees and tuition not previously covered by other forms of federal and state financial aid, such as Pell grants, the Silver State Opportunity Grant and Millennium Scholarship.
Among the eligibility requirements, students must be Nevada high school graduates, or have a general diploma equivalent, be no more than 20 years old, and have yet to obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
The deadline for Promise Scholarship application is Oct. 31. Students will eligible beginning with the 2018 high school graduating class.
Yuliana Chavez, program director for access, outreach and recruitment for Truckee Meadows Community College, urged interested students to apply immediately.
“There are a lot of steps in the process,” Chavez said. “We encourage students and families to inquire about the program as soon as possible.”
Once accepted, students are also required to be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours at a community college, plus maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average and must perform at least 20 hours of community service. Students will have up to three years of their college costs covered to complete an associate’s degree or certification.
Students also are required to meet with designated mentors at least once in their college experience.
Business owners, retirees or others interested in mentoring have opportunities to do so in any of the communities that support a two-year college. Individuals can mentor multiple students, up to a maximum of 10 students.
Each college has the freedom to administer the mentoring program as they see fit. J.W. Lazzari, director of financial aid for WNC, said his school for instance, plans to match mentors with a student’s field of study and developing mentorship training programs.
“We’ve received about 20 applications from students so far,” Lazzari said.
He added that WNC is also reaching out to public and charter high schools around the state to promote the program.
Chavez anticipates the program will have a positive impact on enrollment at TMCC, especially its vocational certificate programs.
“It will also give community colleges greater access to students from a variety of backgrounds,” Chavez said.