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  • Kansas Reflector

    The Kansas Promise Scholarship has transformed and empowered futures for students

    By Sheree Utash,

    2024-03-20
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    Legislators at the Kansas Statehouse created the Kansas Promise Scholarship in 2019. (Sam Bailey/KansasReflector)

    The American Dream, often characterized by the pursuit of higher education and the promise of a prosperous future, has become increasingly elusive for many due to the steep rise in college costs and the weight of student loans. Fortunately, Kansas has found a source of inspiration and optimism in the Kansas Promise Scholarship, an initiative that has redefined access to higher education and helped revitalized local workforces.

    The Kansas Promise Scholarship is a state-funded program created in 2019 by the Kansas Legislature. It provides financial aid to eligible students pursuing higher education at two-year institutions in high-need fields such as aviation, health care, information technology and advanced manufacturing. The scholarship covers tuition and fees for eligible programs, aiming to democratize education and promote workforce development in the state.

    As president of WSU Tech, I see the impact of the Kansas Promise Scholarship in our student body.

    Since the 2021-2022 academic year, 960 students have used it to fund their education at WSU Tech. The enrollment numbers have consistently increased yearly, beginning with 160 students in 2021-2022, rising to 251 in 2022-2023, and reaching 549 in the current 2023-2024 academic year. The scholarship’s financial impact has been considerable, with funding going from $563,566 in its first year to more than $3 million in the current year, with awards still available for this school year until the end of June.

    Its influence is unquestionable. At WSU Tech, we’ve experienced a 10% increase in student retention from the fall of 2023 to the spring of 2024. We have also seen a consistent increase in enrollment, with two semesters of consecutive record-breaking growth. This is the result of a policy that not only gets students through the door but also supports them until graduation.

    The Kansas Promise Scholarship is not merely financial aid. It’s a lifeline to those who believed that the doors of higher education were shut to them. It caters to a diverse cohort of students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. By covering tuition and fees for eligible programs, the scholarship paves the way for students to pursue their educational aspirations without the fear of insurmountable debt.

    In addition, this scholarship serves as a crucial investment in our local economy. By focusing on high-need areas such as aviation, health care, information technology and advanced manufacturing, it aligns students’ education with the workforce needs of our community. This synergy ensures that students have a clear path to employment and addresses skill gaps in local industries.

    As these students graduate and enter the workforce, they bring their skills and a commitment to the community that invested in them.

    The success of the Kansas Promise Scholarship is illustrated by the 405 students who have utilized these funds to complete their degrees or technical certificates at WSU Tech. Among them, 199 have successfully transitioned into the Kansas workforce, directly contributing to vital sectors of our local economy. The remaining 206 are on a trajectory towards higher degrees..

    But these results go beyond numbers. They include the stories of individuals whose lives have been changed. Students who, without this funding, might have postponed their dreams or abandoned them entirely are now thriving in a variety of careers they are passionate about. They are emerging as the next generation of skilled professionals, ready to contribute to our communities.

    As we inch closer to nearly 1,000 lives affected at WSU Tech alone, I am filled with immense pride for our team’s efforts and gratitude for our state’s and its legislatures’ support. This collaborative triumph signifies a shared belief in the power of education and its role in shaping a better future for all.

    The Kansas Promise Scholarship is more than a program. It’s a promise — a promise of opportunity, a promise of growth, and a promise of a brighter future. It’s a model for other states to follow, demonstrating that when we invest in education, we invest in the fabric of our society. Such initiatives are the keystones of a thriving community, a robust economy and a prosperous state.

    Dr. Sheree Utash has served as president of Wichita Area Technical College (WATC) since 2015 and has overseen the transition of the college to the WSU Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology (WSU Tech). Through its opinion section, Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here .

    The post The Kansas Promise Scholarship has transformed and empowered futures for students appeared first on Kansas Reflector .

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