The Heritage Classic Foundation will cut its scholarship program nearly in half this year, after the end of a grant from the former title sponsor of the PGA Tour event it runs.
This year, the foundation will present about $147,000 in scholarships to students in Beaufort County. That's a drop from about $278,000 presented last year.
The reduction comes after a $1.5 million grant from Verizon Wireless for the scholarships ended last year, according to Ward Kirby, chairman of the foundation's scholarship committee. The company is a subsidiary of Verizon Communications, which until 2011 was the title sponsor of the golf tournament at Harbour Town Golf Links.
The reduction means the number of high school seniors receiving scholarships will drop from 15 to seven, he said.
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However, the program is adding six new awards that will go to students at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Technical College of the Lowcountry, Kirby said.
This year's scholarships will be funded with money generated by the tournament, now known as the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, Ward said. The tournament is scheduled for April 14 to 20. Scholarships will be presented at a lunch on March 31.
The end of the Verizon grant was not the only reason for the change to the scholarship program, Ward said.
"We have funded some really fantastic students that go to some great schools, but a lot of them don't stay or come back here," Ward said. "So by giving scholarship assistance to USCB and TCL, we are helping those students who are local and are more likely to remain local and contribute to our growth in the future."
Four scholarships totaling $10,000 will be awarded to USCB, and two totaling $3,000 will be awarded to TCL. The colleges will decide which students receive the scholarships, Ward said.
"It's a marvelous opportunity for our students, and we hope it will continue for many years," said Louise Mathews, executive director of the TCL Foundation.
The Heritage scholarship program will award seven scholarships to graduating seniors in Beaufort County's public and private schools. Two of the scholarships will be for $22,000 each and five for $18,000 each, all of them spread over four years.
"School administrators in the county have been a little disappointed, but also are understanding in how we are redirecting the funds," Ward said. "They see that students who might not have qualified for a Heritage Scholar before can now get a scholarship at one of these schools."
Ward said the committee is continuing to pursue various grants and funding sources to bolster the scholarship program. It hopes to one day offer more scholarships for both high school and college students, he said.
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