WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) – As graduating seniors in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District start winding down their high school careers, it’s time to start thinking about the next step and how much it will cost.
Whether it’s a first semester at college, continuing education, or a vocational training program, there are resources — a lot of them — available for financial assistance.
“Students really need to start thinking about how they’re going to pay for college six to nine months before they start,” Mat-Su College Public Relations and Communications Specialist Nick McDermott said.
A number of Valley-based organizations such as the Mat-Su Health Foundation, Matanuska Electric Association, MTA Foundation, and the Alaska State Fair have opened up application windows for varying scholarship opportunities.
Elizabeth Ripley, the CEO and President of the Mat-Su Health Foundation said there is over $2 million up for grabs for individuals looking to pursue a career in health care.
“We have very robust scholarships, up to $7,000, for Mat-Su residents who are working in Mat-Su and want to pursue a career in health care here in our community,” Ripley said.
The foundation offers two types of scholarships, academic and vocational, that allows students to attend a school or training program with a commitment to come back to the Valley to work once their education or certificate is completed. According to Ripley, healthcare is the fastest-growing sector in the borough’s economy, and the industry is facing shortages.
“We can’t even replace the nurses set to retire at Mat-Su Regional,” Ripley stated.
Last year, the foundation awarded 363 scholarships totaling over $1.8 million.
Individuals don’t need to go into healthcare to take advantage of other opportunities. Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) also has a scholarship program that, in part, uses unclaimed credits to fund. According to MEA spokesperson Jennifer Castro, the only requirement is that applicants be an association member or a dependent of a member.
“As an electric co-op we were community built and lead, and so a part of our community is our students and education and we want to make sure that we’re investing in a safe and educated workforce in the future,” Castro said.
MEA has eight scholarships on the table for students interested in applying, totaling $25,000. The association awards money to first-time college students, returning students, and students participating in vocational programs that lead to a degree or certification.
“We would especially love to see more scholarship applications for the vocational school and training because not a lot of scholarship programs offer that,” Castro stated.
According to Castro, the company only receives about 80 applications each year.
According to McDermott at Mat-Su College, borough organizations have ample amounts of financial assistance opportunities that oftentimes go unclaimed.
“One of the things we find so often is not all of the scholarship opportunities get used,” McDermott stated. “There’s piles of money waiting for people to come to apply for it every semester.”
Many of these application periods end soon, so individuals are encouraged to apply sooner rather than later.
Mat-Su College is hosting a financial aid resource fair on Saturday, Feb. 4 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for Valley residents interested in learning more about scholarship opportunities. The fair will be free of charge and take place on campus in Palmer.
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