New scholarship aims to get workers back in college

Western Colorado businesses interested in having their employees get a tuition break on Colorado Mesa University or Western Colorado Community College classes have until Aug. 11 to apply for the Grand Junction Area Chamber Workforce Development Scholarship.

The scholarship gives recipients a 25 percent discount on tuition in 2014-15 — a cost that will be absorbed by the university.

The employee who wants to take classes and that person’s employer apply jointly for the scholarship and must share the remaining cost of the employee’s tuition.

Scholarship recipients can take up to six credit hours of classes per semester this coming school year at Colorado Mesa’s Grand Junction or Montrose campuses, at WCCC, or online and must work at least 20 hours per week for their employer.

The idea for the scholarship came out of a conversation between executives at the university and at the chamber, according to Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Schwenke.

University personnel noticed fewer people with jobs in their desired career field were enrolling in classes.

Schwenke said that was likely because many businesses struggling in a difficult economy have dropped tuition benefits for employees to save costs.

While the impetus for the scholarship didn’t come from employers themselves, Schwenke said many she spoke with after that conversation said they would like to take advantage of an outside tuition scholarship.

One local nonprofit group has applied for the scholarship so far, and Schwenke hopes to attract about 19 more applicants within the next couple weeks, although there is no cap on scholarship recipients interested in brushing up on their professional skills.

“The point is to get the adult population updating their skills,” Schwenke said. “We’ve all seen with the pace of business, even if you have a skill set today, that skill set may not be totally effective six months or a year from now. It’s important for everyone in the workforce to invest in the future.”

The scholarship is available to companies ­— Grand Junction Area Chamber members or not — operating in CMU and WCCC’s 14-county service region that encompasses Delta, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Montrose, Ouray, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt, San Miguel and Summit counties.

Non-chamber members will be charged a $50 application fee, but there is no charge for chamber member businesses to apply for the scholarship.

Visit http://www.gjchamber.org for details and to download an application.

Call Kris Calvin in the university’s admissions office at 248-1458 for information.


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