WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM) — Opportunity Scholars, a program through Shenandoah University, is teaching underserved students how to attend college or trade schools at little to no cost.
Opportunity Scholars believe that through this program, students having a job in their chosen career is an obtainable goal.
“Today in our society we have two big problems. One is that we don’t have enough skilled workers to allow our businesses to grow and secondly we have a big mismatch between the number of people who are getting an education and the number of people who are doing well in our new information economy,” said Knox Singleton, the acting CEO of Opportunity Scholars.
After students and families pick a career goal, they are assigned a coach, while working with other students interested in the same career field. The program then finances their education.
“I didn’t know where to go with my life, so I thought, since they give you the opportunity and they give you a pathway, I think that’s a good way to start,” said Dustin Overbaugh, a student participant of the program.
Once the student gets into the workforce, if the student is getting paid $50-$60,000 a year, they would have to pay between 4-6% 6 of their income back to the program.
“A lot of the times economic barriers, and also the lack of mentorship for students who are in the underserved community don’t have the ability to know how to go through the FAFSA application process or know about the college application process or how to even obtain transcripts upon graduation for the college applications as well pay for anything until they get the job,” said Bibianna Vazquez, director of counseling for Opportunity Scholars.
If students get a job paying $40,000 and under, they won’t have to pay anything back.