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Ferris Adds Scholarship to Early College Advantage

More Than 150 Students Take Courses at No Cost


When Amanda Eslinger graduates from Ferris State University, she expects she’ll be looking for work as an optometrist. So knowing she will have already completed three FSU courses by the time she graduates this spring – at no cost – gives her greater peace of mind.

“When I’m trying to find a job, I’m not worrying about this massive debt,” said Amanda, who will have saved more than $3,500 in tuition through her early college courses at Rockford High School.

Now she knows she can count on a scholarship as well, following a new agreement between FSU and the district announced this week. The Ferris NEXT Scholarship will award $1,000 per year to Rockford graduates enrolled full-time at FSU, and who have earned a C or better in at least three credits of the early college program.

The scholarship builds on the success of the Woodbridge Ferris Early College Program, begun in 2013. It now enrolls 153 Rockford students — up from 73 last spring — and 35 graduates have enrolled either at FSU or Ferris’ Kendall College of Art & Design.

In announcing the scholarship to the Rockford Board of Education, FSU President David L. Eisler called it the “next logical step” in the program and a way to reward and encourage its students.

“This is to celebrate our partnership, and it’s the next step in your vision of a seamless pathway from high school to college,” Eisler told board members.

Eisler said afterward he’s not aware of any other such scholarship program for early college students, and that it will be an incentive for students to continue and do well in their degree programs at FSU. “It’s a great example of how universities and high schools can cooperate to help students succeed,” he said.

Ferris State University President David L. Eisler, left, and Superintendent Michael Shibler seal an agreement providing scholarships to Rockford early college students

An ‘Amazing’ Cost-Saver

Rockford pays FSU one-third the normal tuition cost for its early college students. The district covers that cost with tuition from Chinese students attending Rockford High School, and a five-year, $125,000 grant from the Rockford Education Foundation, Superintendent Michael Shibler said. The REF grant also helps pay tuition for students taking early college courses in health sciences from Grand Valley State University.

Shibler said he hopes to expand the program into other areas, such as classes in technical trades.

“You’ve got the world of work and college preparation. Our responsibility is to prepare students so they will have a successful experience” in both areas, he said, adding the community strongly supports the program. “When you have the community behind you, nothing’s impossible.”

Alex Searl said early college plus the scholarship will help him pursue a pharmacy degree, by reducing his tuition bill from the $10,976 for full-time freshmen.

“I’m going to be going to school for a while, so I’m going to need as much lowering of cost as possible,” Alex said.

Allyson Faulkner hopes to get her tuition completely covered, between the FSU program and other scholarships, as she studies political science.

“I think it’s amazing,” she said of the early college program. “It’s so, so nice. More high schools should do it.”

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Rockford Students Gain from Ferris Early College Program

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers Rockford and Grand Rapids. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.

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