January 15, 2009 12:00AM
In an economy where some potential college students are foregoing the dream of a four-year degree while watching their parents struggle to make ends meet, Randy Winzer wants them to know some valuable things in life really can be free - or at least very close to it.
Winzer, an associate professor in engineering technology at Pittsburg State University, is sitting on a bit of a gold mine - nearly $600,000 in scholarships that he'll be handing out to technology students over the next four years. For the 2009-2010 academic year alone, that's approximately $130,000 that will provide about 15 technology students with a full ride, including tuition, room and board, and books. The scholarships are renewable for four years if students maintain academic requirements.
The money was awarded to PSU last summer by the National Science Foundation after Winzer and his colleagues pursued the grant. The intention of the grant is to help academically talented students living in low-income counties be able to attend college. Winzer and other recruiters are spreading the word to new, incoming freshmen in 12 Southeast Kansas counties, as well as the Gorilla Advantage counties in Missouri and Oklahoma. A board will meet to approve applicants this spring.
"We're looking for students who didn't think a four-year college was in their options," Winzer said. "NSF wanted to show them a four-year degree could be possible for them. In these financial times, it's a great relief to parents to see that their children can get the education they need, and for it not to break their budget or put them in debt."
So far, Winzer has sent mass mailings to more than 300 area high schools, asking counselors to inform their students. Searching specifically for those who are new to college, the money is for students majoring in one of the areas of engineering technology including construction, electronics, manufacturing, mechanical and plastics. Winzer said another goal is to attract more women and minorities to the fields.
The application deadline for the scholarship is Feb. 1. For more information on engineering technology programs or the grant, go to www.pittstate.edu/nsf-stem.