Students should take advantage of scholarships

Posted: Sunday, December 26, 2004

Most people wouldn't decline an offer of free money.

But students are essentially doing that by not applying for scholarship money available through Kenai Peninsula College, as well as a multitude of local and national organizations.

While it may not be quite as simple as asking for the money and then receiving it, the fact is students greatly increase their chances for receiving a scholarship if they simply take the time to apply.

But they have to apply. And they should apply for as many of the scholarships as they qualify for.

True, they may not get the money they seek, but that's the worst that can happen. Imagine the best that can happen simply by taking the time to apply: a college education at a greatly reduced cost — perhaps even free.

Getting a college education isn't cheap, but the folks at KPC are trying to make it as inexpensive as possible by encouraging students to apply for the available scholarships. While a deadline for campus-based scholarships for the spring semester recently passed, other deadlines are looming. It's never too early for high school students to begin exploring what scholarships are out there.

There's good reason for wanting to cut college costs as much as possible. College students today are graduating with an average student-loan debt of approximately $20,000.

That's a lot of debt to be saddled with at the very time graduates should be heading out into the world to seek their fame and fortune. Accumulating that debt may make life easier in the short run, but for the long haul it limits one's opportunities. It's tough to take time to see the world or experiment with jobs that may pay less but are more rewarding in other ways with that kind of debt hanging over students' heads. By necessity, money becomes the driving factor, and work has the potential to be, well, just work.

All of that makes a good case for Alaska students to get their education in their home state. First, tuition at University of Alaska campuses is among the lowest of any statewide university system in the nation. Second, the cost of college is far more than just tuition. Alaska students don't always figure the higher nonresident tuition fees, transportation costs for flying to and and from Alaska a couple of times a year, higher phone bills to stay in touch with family and friends in Alaska, and lifestyle costs for which there is no price tag when they seek their education elsewhere.

Kenai Peninsula students are shortchanging themselves when they don't check out the opportunities at KPC. It's small and user-friendly. It has both vocational and academic offerings, giving students a chance to explore their options.

And it has a reputation for helping students who want to pursue their education to find — and fund — a way to do it.

KPC's efforts to get the word out that scholarship money is available should be applauded. The only thing better than higher education is higher education that costs less.

Please party responsibly

As an old year passes and a new one begins, resolutions and celebrations are on people's minds. Our hope is that everyone ringing in the New Year with alcohol will resolve not to drink and drive.

Alaska State Troopers and other law enforcement agencies have increased patrols targeting drunk drivers during the holidays.

Drunk drivers not only put themselves in danger, they put the lives of all those on the road with them at risk. We've said it before this holiday season, but it bears repeating:

n If you are hosting a party where alcohol will be served, be prepared to arrange for a ride home for your guests or invite them to spend the night. Also, plan activities so that the focus isn't just on drinking.

n If you are going out to drink, designate a nondrinking driver ahead of time, take a cab or make a reservation and spend the night. Sip your drinks, eat and alternate alcoholic beverages with nonalcoholic ones.

An arrest for drinking and driving — or worse — is no way to start the New Year.

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