An effort is currently underway in Elizabethton and Carter County to resurrect the Carter County Educate and Grow Scholarship Program. Elected officials and local business representatives are in the process of seeking assistance from the community to find the remainder of the necessary funding.
The genesis of the Educate and Grow Scholarship in Northeast Tennessee occurred in 2001 when the City of Kingsport and Sullivan County created the program. The primary goal of the scholarship is to develop a well-trained workforce in the region through expanding access to higher education. Since the Kingsport and Sullivan County Educate and Grow Program was first established, similar scholarships have been set up in Unicoi, Johnson and Washington County. More than 1,000 students in East Tennessee have participated in the scholarship program and have received more than $1.7 million since its inception a decade ago.
In Carter County, local officials were first approached about the Educate and Grow Scholarship in 2006. Through the financial backing of Charles Green and his wife, Pat, nearly $35,000 was given to 40 students in Elizabethton and Carter County. From the fall of 2007 until the fall of 2009, approximately 100 scholarship awards ranging from $52 to $1,394 were given to local students to defray the remainder of their school fees and tuition costs.
Since the end of 2009, however, the Carter County Educate and Grow Scholarship has been inactive. Dr. Heather Cook, the Director of the Northeast State Community College Foundation, stated that the Elizabethton/Carter County program was placed on hold for the last three years due to the lack of funding. Under the original terms of the scholarship program, funding was supposed to be provided by the local government after the Greens’ initial gift to the endowment was exhausted. When local funding did not materialize, the Educate and Grow Scholarship was placed on an extended hiatus.
Recently, local business leaders have been working to bring the program back to Carter County. A total of $10,000 has been donated to the scholarship by Citizens’ Bank and Carter County Tomorrow. Both organizations have provided $5,000 each to reinstate the program.
County Commissioner and Education Committee Chairman Steve Lowrance has been advocating for Carter County to provide funding for the program. He noted that if the City of Elizabethton and Carter County would contribute $10,000 each to Educate and Grow, the program would have full funding.
Lowrance also commented that many students–especially non-traditional ones–may find it difficult to find the necessary funding to return to school. He said the Tennessee Lottery Scholarship only assists students who have just graduated from high school. Lowrance also commented for adults who are working to support their families, the financial requirements of paying for college can make it virtually impossible for them to work and go to school. “The Educate and Grow Scholarship doesn’t do away with all of those problems, but it certainly can provide help for people who want to better themselves,” said Lowrance.
In order to assist as many students as possible, Educate and Grow utilizes a last dollar equation. Students are given monetary assistance based on how much tuition and fees are remaining. Once any Free Application for Federal Student Aid assistance (FAFSA), Tennessee Lottery Scholarship money or other sources of assistance have been exhausted, the Educate and Grow Scholarship assists the student by picking up the remaining balance. The scholarship does not include student loans in determining eligibility requirements.
Other eligibility requirements include maintaining at least twelve hours of classes at Northeast State and a minimum GPA of 2.0.
In order to apply for the program, students must first submit an application for admission to Northeast State along with all required documentation, including high school transcripts. A FAFSA application must also be submitted as well as the Northeast State General Online Scholarship Application.
Once the prerequisites for applying have been met, a copy of the Educate and Grow Scholarship Application can be obtained by visiting www.educateandgrow.com. The application deadline for each year is March 31.
Joe LaPorte with Citizens’ Bank also stated that any businesses or private individuals who would like to provide financial assistance to the Educate and Grow Program can do so by contacting the Northeast State Foundation at (423) 354-2439.