Beginning in spring 2019, graduates of E.C. Glass and Heritage high schools in Lynchburg will be eligible for an extra incentive to attend local colleges and universities, including Sweet Briar. The Stay Close, Go Far Promise Scholarship Program, announced during a ceremony at E.C. Glass yesterday, is sponsored and funded by Lynchburg Beacon of Hope in partnership with six higher education institutions.
“Sweet Briar is incredibly honored to take our partnership with Beacon of Hope and Lynchburg City Schools to the next level for college access and affordability for students in Lynchburg,” Melissa Richards, vice president for communications and enrollment management at Sweet Briar College, said. “Keeping these bright, ambitious students local will have a positive long-term impact on our region for job talent and innovation.”
Stay Close, Go Far will invest up to $8,000 per student over four years (or $2,000 per year) to attend Sweet Briar College, Liberty University, Centra College of Nursing, Randolph College or the University of Lynchburg — with half of that amount being matched by the partnering institution — or over two years to attend Central Virginia Community College. As noted on the City of Lynchburg’s Facebook page and in The News & Advance, a student could attend community college for free with the Promise scholarship. Sweet Briar College has a dual-enrollment agreement with CVCC.
Stay Close, Go Far is the first local initiative of its kind in Virginia. Its goals, said Beacon of Hope Executive Director Laura Hamilton, are twofold: to address financial obstacles that keep students out of college and to train and retain the city’s future workforce.
“Lynchburg’s Promise is really quite different from other Promise programs around the country,” she said in a press release. “It is a bi-lateral approach. Beacon of Hope works hand in hand with Lynchburg City Schools through the Future Centers to eliminate academic, social, organizational barriers that may have derailed students in the past — and the Promise helps to close the financial gap, remove the financial barriers that can roadblock our students’ futures.”
Over the past six years, Hamilton’s organization collected data that show the “average last-dollar financial gap” for many LCS graduates to continue their education is about $3,000 per year. “It’s important to fill that gap because a post-secondary degree — either from a college or a technical school — is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity,” Hamilton said.
Beacon of Hope also announced a $5 million capital campaign, with $3.6 currently committed. Proceeds will be used to support Stay Close, Go Far scholarships and the Future Centers at E.C. Glass and Heritage high schools. Ten more merit scholarships will also be available to Lynchburg City Schools graduates who continue their postsecondary education outside the area.
Beacon of Hope was established in 2011 to remove the barriers that prevent students in Lynchburg City Schools from attending college. The organization has provided nearly 70 scholarships to date and operates Future Centers at E.C Glass and Heritage high schools.