A unique local program offering five consecutive semesters of free college tuition to low-income students is now accepting its first-ever round of applications. The Moraine Park Promise Program opened its inaugural enrollment period recently, and eligible high school seniors have until Jan. 15, 2018, to submit applications.

The Promise Program, first announced by Moraine Park Technical College in April, is open to more than 25 area high schools and home school residents and aims to give students who are struggling with financial limitations an opportunity to start their career debt-free.

“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,” said Moraine Park President Bonnie Baerwald. “We’re hoping to change that. The Moraine Park Promise Program removes financial barriers, providing high school seniors in low-income families a chance to earn their degree and achieve their career goals without the burden of college debt.”

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.

The Promise Program hopes to address those issues as well. A mentoring component of the Promise Program will aid these students by guiding them through what could be an intimidating responsibility associated with college.

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.

To qualify for Promise funding, students must also complete their 2018-19 FAFSA by Jan. 15, 2018.  The application is available Oct. 1, and Moraine Park will host FAFSA filing workshops soon after for all students seeking assistance with the application.

“Most students and families are apprehensive in completing the FAFSA; so to offer one-on-one help filing the application at these workshops is a wonderful chance to see what you qualify for and to get first-hand guidance,” said Triena Bodart, Moraine Park’s financial aid manager.

FAFSA filing workshops will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at the College’s West Bend campus; Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Fond du Lac campus and Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the Beaver Dam campus. The College will also host its Discover Moraine Park career showcase event the same days from 4 to 6 p.m.

The offset of student tuition provided through the Promise Program will 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 that will occur during the 2017-18 fiscal year.

For more information on the Promise Program, a full list of eligibility requirement for interested high school seniors, or to begin an application, visit morainepark.edu/promise.