College scholarship expansion proposed

 

Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington), who had the idea for the SEED Scholarship 20 years ago and finally saw it come to fruition 10 years ago was happy to be at Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus Tuesday introducing a bill that would expand the scholarship to be more eligible for students in Delaware.   (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers )

Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington), who had the idea for the SEED Scholarship 20 years ago and finally saw it come to fruition 10 years ago was happy to be at Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus Tuesday introducing a bill that would expand the scholarship to be more eligible for students in Delaware. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers )

DOVER — State officials announced Tuesday a bill to expand a state scholarship to cover part-time Delaware Technical Community College students.

The General Assembly in 2005 created the SEED scholarship to provide free tuition at DelTech for every Delaware high school graduate who qualifies academically.

Applicants must post a 2.5 grade point average in high school, enroll as full-time students the fall semester after their high school graduation and have a clean criminal history.

About 13,000 students have met the standards since the scholarship was developed.

At a presentation Tuesday morning, state and college officials touted the scholarship and the proposed expansion, which would include part-time students and those who have to take a semester off.

“We’re prepared to pay for everyone that arrives qualified for SEED, and we will. We’ll find a way, whatever it is, to do that because you are our future,” Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington, said to the dozens of college students gathered in the room.

The sponsor of the original legislation, he is also the lead backer of the forthcoming bill to expand the program.

Discussed in Gov. Jack Markell’s January State of the State address, the change has bipartisan support.

Supporters say it will benefit many Delawareans who struggle to handle being a full-time student with the demands of holding a job or providing family care.

“Some students who need these scholarships the most can’t access them, despite meeting academic requirements, because current rules mandate that they attend school full time and without interruption,” Gov. Markell said in the State of the State address.

“But where does that leave the aspiring students who are caring for young children or elderly parents, or are working to support their families?”

On Tuesday he praised DelTech for preparing students to enter the workforce and thanked lawmakers for supporting the proposal.

The SEED program, which stands for Student Excellence Equals Degree, has remained funded by the state even when Delaware struggled to come out of the recession.

DelTech President Mark Brainard said SEED students on average have a higher GPA, take more courses and graduate quicker than non-scholarship recipients.

“It’s obvious that this program is helping to connect highly skilled Delaware Tech graduates with jobs in high-demand fields,” he said.

Rep. David Bentz, D-Newark, noted many people are now questioning whether college is a good investment, in part due to the rapidly rising costs.

Locally, DelTech and the SEED scholarship help make higher education more affordable, he said.

“I’m a strong believer that education opens all the doors in the world,” said Rep. Joseph Miro, R-Pike Creek Valley.

College officials have been tracking why students left school. That part-time students were not eligible for SEED was an area of weakness they noticed, Sen. McDowell said.

He expects the legislation to pass with ease, a notion Gov. Markell briefly touched on.

“When it comes to providing the young people of Delaware with an opportunity to get ahead, that’s not a Democratic issue, that’s not a Republican issue, that’s a Delaware issue,” the governor said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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