New scholarship program to let students attend TCL tuition-free

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comMay 20, 2014 

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    Several local groups have worked to create the Build a Better Beaufort Scholarship program, which will send eligible Beaufort County public high school students to the Technical College of the Lowcountry tuition-free. Click here to learn more about this program.

A new scholarship program not only will make technical college attainable for Beaufort County School District students -- it will make it tuition-free.

The school district announced Tuesday a partnership with the Technical College of the Lowcountry and Know2 Beaufort County -- a nonprofit organization funded by the S.C. Commission on Higher Education -- to create a scholarship program for students to attend TCL.

The first Build a Better Beaufort Scholarships, or B3 scholarships, will be awarded to students graduating this spring.

"We started talking about this three months ago, and within 90 days, it has gone from something drafted on paper to a reality for students," Beaufort County schools' superintendent Jeff Moss said. "The opportunities are endless for students who attend TCL."

Know2 is funding the scholarships for the first year, said Jeff Bradley, chairman of the organization, which has put about $40,000. He said it won't be known how much money is needed until students apply.

The district and TCL hope more businesses will contribute to the program, investing in their future workforce.

The school district also is trying to build an endowment for the scholarship over the next four years through a new golf tournament fundraiser. The Swinging with the Superintendent tournament, set for July 21, already has more than $20,000 in sponsorships for its inaugural year, community services coordinator Megan Meyer said.

The scholarshipcan be used to enroll in one-year occupation preparation programs or two-year technical or college-transfer programs at TCL, according to college president Richard Gough.

To be eligible for a scholarship, students must meet requirements that include a 3.0 high school GPA. They also must meet TCL's entry requirements and maintain the college's minimum GPA requirements.

Students will be required to complete federal student-aid forms too.

The B3 Scholarship will fill in financial gaps not covered by other federal and state funding sources to make TCL's education tuition-free.

The average annual tuition for a full-time student is roughly $4,000, according to Gough. Students would still be responsible for paying for books and other supplies.

"This initiative is the first of its kind in South Carolina," Gough said. "No other districts and (higher education) schools have created this kind of partnership."

Principals and school counselors are promoting the scholarship to students, Moss said. The district doesn't yet know how many students will apply the first year, but TCL has extended its application deadline to Aug. 1 to allow as many seniors as possible to take advantage of the program.

Hilton Head Island High School counselor Edward Johnson said his office has been flooded with students seeking information about the scholarships after they were announced recently.

One interested student is Lucy Dyer, who will attend TCL this fall to study radiology.

"I'm so grateful for this scholarship and think everyone should try this program," she said.

School board chairman Bill Evans said he is confident the scholarship will help keep local talent in Beaufort County to build a better workforce.

"This is a game-changer for the students," he said. "It's a game-changer for economic development, and overall, it's a game-changer for the entire community."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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