UNION COUNTY — A high school student’s decision to continue their education after graduation could be worth as much as $3 million over the course of that student’s lifetime and Union County is offering a scholarship to help Union County High School seniors make that choice.
The UCHS Class of 2016 gathered in the school’s auditorium Tuesday for a presentation by Union County Supervisor Frank Hart, Timken Plant Manager Bob Hart, Spartanburg Community College President Henry Giles, and USC Union Dean John Catalano. The four spoke to the students about the new Union County Community Scholarship Program being launched by Union County, SCC, USC Union, and the Union County School District.
Hart began Tuesday’s presentation by providing the students with some statistics, beginning with the fact that, approximately half of all graduating high school seniors will choose to continue their education after high school. The other half, for various reasons, will not, and Hart said that the decision to not continue their education will prove a costly one for those graduates.
“Everyone here is going to work at least 40 hours a week,” Hart said. “For those who continue their education their wages will be at least 20 percent higher than those who do not.”
Hart said that in some cases those who continue their education beyond high school can command wages as much as 70 percent more that those who do not. He said that over the course of their lifetime, high school graduates who continue their education after graduation can earn anywhere from $1 million-$3 million more than those who stopped their education after graduating from high school.
Furthermore, Hart said that in “tight times” such as during a recession when businesses are laying off employees and eliminating positions, those who do not continue their education after high school are 42-92 percent more likely to find themselves without a job than those who continued their education after high school.
Hart told the seniors that, based on the past, approximately 40 percent of the Class of 2016 will choose not to continue their education after they graduate from UCHS. He said that was 40 percent too many and the county, the school district, SCC, and USC Union aim to change that with the Community Scholarship Program.
According to a brochure presented to the seniors, the purpose of the Community Scholarship Program is “to provide access to post high school education and training programs to ensure businesses have skilled workers and residents have the knowledge needed to compete for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow.”
Hart pointed out that 30 years ago, a person with only a high school diploma or GED could get a good job. Today, however, Hart said that is harder to do and is only going to get harder in the job market of the future. He said that is why it is imperative that high school seniors continue their education beyond high school and why the Commuity Scholarship Program has been established to help them do so.
The brochure states that the county, the school district, SCC, and USC Union developed the program to “address barriers to postsecondary education and critical shortages in Union County’s workforce.”
One of those barriers is the cost of getting a post-secondary education and Hart said the Community Scholarship Program addresses that by paying for the first two years of that education.
“Through the Community Scholarship Program you will be able to attend USC Union or SCC in Union tuition-free,” Hart said. “It will allow you to get your first two years of education without owing a dime.”
The brochure states the following entrance guidelines for high school graduates interested in participating in the program:
• Students must be a current resident of Union County.
• Students must have graduated from Union County High School, Union County Adult Education, Union Christian Day School, or an approved Union County Home School Program in the previous academic year or be early graduates in the spring or summer terms.
• Students must enroll within one calendar year of high school graduation or completion of GED.
• Students must complete a FAFSA on time and use all federal grants, state awards and other scholarship funds first.
• Awarded scholarships pay tuition and fees, and do not include payment for books and lab fees.
• Students attending USC Union must meet all qualifications for the Life Scholarship to participate.
• Students attending SCC Union County Campus must meet all qualifications for the LTAP or Life Scholarship to participate.
• Students must meet the same criteria for making satisfactory academic progress that recipients of federal financial aid programs must meet.
• Students must enroll in classes offered at the SCC Union County Campus or USC Union to be considered for this scholarship.
Hart urged the seniors to seriously consider the program and what it can mean for both them and the community.
“Union County’s got lots of assets, lots of resources, but you are our biggest asset, you are the future of our county,” Hart said. “All of you have untapped potential and we want you to put it to work for your benefit and Union County’s.”
This is the logo of the Union County Community Scholarship Program. It is emblazoned on the t-shirts handed out to Union County High School seniors Tuesday morning. The program is designed to help graduating high school seniors continue their education by paying for the first two years of their post-secondary education.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090 or [email protected]