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Local college tuition programs target area students

Tom Riese
Schools like King's College, Commonwealth University and Wilkes University are offering tuition incentives to regional high school graduates to stay local for their higher education.

Area colleges and universities are coming up with ways to entice local high school graduates to stay in the region for higher education.

Representatives from King’s College, Commonwealth University and Wilkes University among other institutions confirmed programs that benefit local grads with tuition help and scholarships.

Dr. Rochelle Koury is the director of administrative and student services at Wilkes-Barre Area School District. Koury is optimistic that available incentives will end up benefiting the regional economy.

“We want to educate them in this area, and keep them in the workforce here … instead of getting the education here and leaving to go to a different city,” she said. “We want to keep them here in Wilkes-Barre and to give back.”

But, she said families still need education about the number of tuition programs for local high school graduates.

“We want to make the students and the parents aware that that is available to them,” Koury said. “We plan on seeing a tremendous increase in our students actually attending [local] colleges.”

Tom Riese
Wilkes-Barre Area School District wants to educate college-bound students and their families about local scholarship opportunities.

King’s College, Wilkes-Barre
King’s College in Wilkes-Barre recently announced a program called the Luzerne and Lackawanna Education Opportunity (LLEO) that will launch in the 2023-24 academic year.

The school intends to cover tuition costs for certain students after federal and state student aid has been applied. Only students who graduate from a high school in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties – or who live in the counties and attend home or cyber school – will be considered, according to the college.

Students must have been accepted to King’s as a full-time student for the first time as either an undergrad or graduate student. They must have also filed their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by May 1 and have reported $50,000 or less in family income.

A representative from the college also noted that the tuition payment assistance does not cover costs for room and board or books and food.

Chris Dearth, vice president of enrollment at King’s, said before the COVID-19 pandemic, the college would see more than 200 students from the two counties enrolling in classes. He said King’s hopes that LLEO can support about 50 students in the coming academic year.

Tom Riese
Commonwealth University – made up of Mansfield (pictured), Lock Haven and Bloomsburg universities – has signed tuition and scholarship agreements with 50 area school districts to encourage local high school grads to attend.

Commonwealth University: Bloomsburg, Mansfield and Lock Haven
Fifty high schools in the region have signed agreements with Commonwealth University, a merger of Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities. Just last month, 17 school districts signed on to reach that total.

Newly-added school districts with agreements include Berwick, Benton, Bloomsburg, Central Columbia, Columbia/Montour Vo Tech, Danville, Hazleton, Lewisburg, Millville, Milton Area, Mount Carmel, North Schuylkill, Selinsgrove, Shamokin, Southern Columbia, Warrior Run and Shikellamy.

Eligible students must apply to Commonwealth University by Dec. 15 of their high school senior year and finish with a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Four tiers of academic merit scholarships are offered, up to $7,000 annually for cumulative grade point averages between 3.8 to 4.0.

Last month, Commonwealth University also signed an agreement with Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) that guarantees admission and possible tuition benefits for transfer students to one of its three campuses in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

Students must have graduated with an associates’ degree from LCCC and have “at least full junior standing” with a parallel program at Commonwealth University, according to the announcement.

In a statement, Rosana Reyes, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs at LCCC, praised the partnership.

“These pathways, financial support, and transfer-advising help increase direct access to quality four-year degrees and successful completion for our students,” Reyes said.

Tom Riese
The "Hometown Advantage Award" at Wilkes University in downtown Wilkes-Barre offers $2,000 annual scholarships to Luzerne and Lackawanna county students.

Other Luzerne and Lackawanna incentives
A spokesperson for Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre said that as of 2020, the school provides $2,000 awards to Luzerne and Lackawanna County students. First year students are eligible for the Hometown Advantage Award annual scholarship.

A representative from Misericordia University in Dallas said that although the school hasn’t finalized region-specific awards, they are looking at ways to support high-need local high school graduates in the area.

Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's Morning Edition. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.
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