Introducing Moraine Park ‘Promise’: Free college for low-income students!

Too often, deserving high school students think college isn’t an option for their future — not because of their abilities or ambition, but because of financial limitations.

Moraine Park Technical College is looking to change that.

At a community-wide open house at its Fond du Lac campus on Saturday, the College unveiled the Moraine Park Promise program — a new scholarship initiative intended to help low-income, high school students afford college and pursue their dreams.

“The Moraine Park Promise program removes financial barriers, providing high school students the opportunity to earn their degree and achieve their career goals without the burden of college debt,” said Bonnie Baerwald, Moraine Park president. “The Promise program also creates a partnership between the student and Moraine Park, so together we can work to make college possible.”

For Moraine Park’s portion of this partnership, the College promises to provide five consecutive semesters of free tuition, as well as additional services including mentoring, tutoring, assisting with financial aid filing and other support.

For students accepted into this program, their promise is to attend Moraine Park as a full-time student and to fulfill outlined eligibility requirements, which include identified academic standards upon application and while enrolled at the College.

High school students graduating in 2018 throughout Moraine Park’s district will be the first group eligible to utilize the Promise program. This includes a wide array of more than 25 high schools in the region, including Fond du Lac, West Bend, Beaver Dam, and more.

Baerwald said Moraine Park’s Promise program will hopefully be a game-changer for area youth struggling with financial limitations – and, unfortunately, there’s no shortage of students in this difficult situation.

On average, more than a quarter of the total high school student population within Moraine Park’s district is eligible for free and reduced lunch — over 14,000 students. Research also shows that over 30 percent of these lower income populations – especially first-generation students – don’t pursue college education because they feel they won’t succeed or they don’t know how to navigate the system.

According to Baerwald, this is especially troubling given that just over half the current area workforce is projected to retire within 15 years.

“When so many employment opportunities lay ahead, at Moraine Park, we have the belief that attending college should be determined by a student’s potential rather than their financial resources. We realize we have to do something within our communities to give all students a genuine chance to become employees for our local companies, to earn a living wage and to take care of their families,” Baerwald said.

Among the eligibility requirements for the program, applicants must graduate on time from an accredited or home high school; reside within the Moraine Park Technical College District; earn a cumulative high school GPA of 2.5 or higher; earn a minimum composite score of 16 on the ACT; and have a 90 percent attendance rate during their senior year of high school.

They must also complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and be eligible for federal Pell grants and accept all state and federal grants and scholarships not awarded by the Moraine Park Foundation.

The offset of student tuition will strictly be funded with scholarship dollars raised through the Moraine Park Foundation. The Moraine Park Promise program will, in part, be possible through fund-raising efforts which will occur during the 2017-18 fiscal year. The fund-raising plan has not yet been finalized, but the intent is to explore an opportunity to create an endowment for this program.

The application window for Moraine Park’s Promise Program for fall 2018 is Sept. 5, 2017, through Jan. 15, 2018. For more information, visit


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