Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and other technical colleges are offering students a chance to take classes for free this fall if they enroll in specific, in-demand career training programs.
Students are eligible for free tuition at the college and the state’s other technical colleges through the South Carolina Technical College System’s new SC WINS scholarship program.
"The issue of affordability is becoming increasingly important in higher education due to rising costs and the amount of student loan debt students are faced with," OCtech President Dr. Walter Tobin said. "SC WINS is one of several scholarship opportunities offered throughout the technical college system that is designed to reduce the barrier of cost."
SC WINS, the S.C. Workforce and Industrial Needs Scholarship, is designed to address the state’s workforce shortages. It helps cover any tuition and mandatory fees left after all other scholarships or grants have been applied.
As part of the scholarship, students will receive $50 per credit hour – up to $600 total per semester – after applying all other scholarships or grants. The scholarship may cover the cost of tuition and mandatory fees.
A book allowance of up to $300 per year is also available for students who enroll in a critical workforce major and one related course during the semester.
Tobin said SC WINS continues the college's, “intentional commitment of supporting college and career readiness for high school graduates.”
"This past fall, more than 600 high school students were dually enrolled in OCtech’s Early College, and many of these students graduated high school with the first semester of college complete," Tobin said. "I think this is so important that we have decided to make Early College free to students in our public schools."
Tobin said working adults who are looking to advance in their career or looking to start a new one also win with SC WINS.
"SC WINS is clearly aligned with helping put people to work in good jobs with no or little out-of-pocket expense," Tobin said. "We often talk about how OCtech is the first stop on the road to the American dream, and adults enrolling with us have the opportunity to begin that journey with us right now for free or, in some cases, almost free."
Tobin said the SC WINS scholarship will help local businesses and industry as well.
"Unemployment in our region of South Carolina is the lowest it’s been in 30 years," Tobin said. "There is greater competition for workers who have the aptitude to help a business be successful."
"Our mission has always been focused on putting people to work in a timeframe that is convenient for our students," he continued. "Stackable credentials is one method that allows students to earn a credential as part of a degree program, enter the workforce and continue their education. This helps local businesses to fill a short-term need, but also helps to create a pipeline into higher wage, in-demand occupations."
One of the local employers expected to benefit from the new program will be Orangeburg's Zeus Industrial Products.
Zeus Human Resource Director Bryan Hamrick said the company has worked closely over the years with the technical colleges in the Midlands, especially with colleges like OCtech and Midlands Tech.
"Any program that would increase the number of students entering the technical fields as in machinery and maintenance would be of great interest to us," Hamrick said.
To be eligible for SC WINS funds, students will need to meet one of the following criteria:
• Receive a Lottery Tuition Assistance Program scholarship for the current academic year and meet USDA income eligibility guidelines for free and reduced-price lunch. The income eligibility guidelines can be found here: www.sctechsystem.edu/downloads/SC-WINS-Eligibility-Determination-Chart-Regular-Student.pdf
• Receive a Lottery Tuition Assistance Program Scholarship for the current academic year and be enrolled in at least one course in a critical workforce area as defined by the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education, including advanced manufacturing, computer technology, engineering technology, health science and nursing, transportation and logistics.
Private and homeschool students are also eligible to receive SC WINS funds if they meet the same qualifications.
SC WINS funds are also available to adult students who meet the same eligibility criteria and receive Lottery Tuition Assistance.
There is no application process for SC WINS. If a student receives LTA and qualifies for SC WINS, it will automatically be applied.
The program, which will make its debut this fall, is open to students who are pursuing a certificate, diploma or a degree from one of the state's 16 technical colleges.
The SC WINS scholarship can only be received for one certificate or degree unless the additional degree is progress in the same field of study.
The program also requires a student to be enrolled in at least six credit hours per semester, including at least three hours in one of the workforce areas as defined by the SBTCE.
The student must also have earned at least a 2.0 grade-point-average after attempting 24 credit hours.
Dual enrollment courses taken in high school in critical workforce area programs count toward the fulfillment of the minimum major course requirement for freshmen.
Changing majors is allowed within the acceptable disciplines in workforce program areas.
For more information, individuals are encouraged to speak to their school guidance counselor and visit octech.edu/cost-financial-aid/sc-wins-scholarship.
Contact the writer: email@example.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.
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