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Published: Wednesday, 2/17/2010

Free-tuition program at Owens expanding

BY MEGHAN GILBERT-CUNNINGHAM
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Owens Community College has received a grant that will help it expand its free-tuition program.

The $15,000 challenge grant from the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation will aid Owens in its effort to expand the Owens Success program to all of Hancock County.

The grant will be matched by the Owens Foundation for a total $30,000 investment in the scholarship program that bridges the gap between tuition costs and what federal and state grants provide for needy students.

The Owens Success program has been open to graduates from Toledo Public Schools, Washington Local Schools, and Findlay City Schools.

Owens has campuses in Perrysburg Township and Findlay.

“The intent is to use the money to sustain Findlay and to expand to all of Hancock County,” said Ann Savage, Owens' executive director of college development and president of the Owens Foundation. “We're looking to eventually expand this to all our schools in the legal district.”

That area includes all of Lucas, Wood, and Hancock counties as well as Woodmore Local Schools in Sandusky County and Ottawa County's Genoa Area Local Schools and Benton-Carroll-Salem Schools.

To be eligible for the Owens Success program, students need to graduate from a participating high school, enroll full time at Owens with 12 or more credit hours a semester, and qualify for federal Pell Grant funding by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA.

Owens applied for the grant from the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation, which was pleased to support a successful program that promotes education, foundation President Katherine Kreuchauf said.

“It takes one of those barriers away,” Ms. Kreuchauf said of the scholarship program. “It's good for the kids and it's good for the whole region. The more educational opportunities that we can give to people, the better for the region in terms of being competitive.”

The Owens Success program has been effective in Toledo and Findlay, and Ms. Kreuchauf said she wanted to see it expand to all of Hancock County.

In the program's pilot year with just two high schools — Woodward High School in Toledo and Findlay High School — 87 of the 2008 graduates attended Owens through the program.

After it was expanded to all Toledo high schools and Whitmer High School in the Washington Local district, 247 of the 2009 high school graduates attended Owens.

The Owens Foundation will conduct fund-raising events to raise $15,000 to match the grant and expand the program to more high schools.

The specific schools to benefit next in Hancock County include Arcadia, Arlington, Cory-Rawson, Liberty Benton, McComb, Van Buren, and Vanlue high schools.

It could take a couple years to raise the funds to expand the program, Ms. Savage said.

The Owens Foundation's next fund-raising event is the “An Uncommon Evening” gala March 26 at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons. It will include food, entertainment, and a silent auction, Ms. Savage said.

“Our intent since we started was always the intent to expand the program,” Ms. Savage said.

“There's nothing I would love better than to say tomorrow we will open it up to all schools in our district, but we really have to raise the money to be responsible,” Ms. Savage said. “We want to do this for the long term and we want these students to come to Owens and to be able to go on and be successful.”

For more information, visit www.owens.edu/foundation or call the Owens Foundation at 567-661-7603.

Contact Meghan Gilbert-Cunninghamat: mcunningham@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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