LEWISTON, Idaho – The Lewis-Clark State College Work Scholars program has grown to 45 students this fall, and, by all measures, the program has been a big success for those involved.
The program, the only one of its kind in Idaho, was launched in 2015 after the program received $209,000 in funding from the Idaho Legislature. It pairs high achieving students who have financial need with meaningful jobs both on campus and in the Lewiston area. Each student receives a full tuition scholarship for the academic year in turn for working 10 hours a week.
Originally the program began with 11 students and their work was limited to just the campus. College administrators, however, saw the program’s potential and helped increase funding to its current level.
The program also is helping the college meet some of the recommendations of the Governor’s Higher Education Task Force by making more money available for college scholarships and collaborating with local industry. And it’s helping these students remain in college and earn their degree.
“The Work Scholars Program is a perfect fit for the role and mission of Lewis-Clark State College,” LCSC president J. Anthony (Tony) Fernandez said.
The program also has helped reduce the debt load for these students by nearly two-thirds. LC Work Scholars are averaging a debt amount of $10,742 by the time they graduate compared to the Idaho state average of $28,130.
LCSC students currently receive a $3,167 scholarship each semester they are enrolled in the program, which covers their tuition cost at the college.
“I’d say that is the upmost important for me,” said Levi Jeppson, a Work Scholar from Lewiston, about tuition being covered. “Being a young guy who is married and with a child on the way, the Work Scholars program is allowing me to get out of my undergraduate work debt free. That’s just a lot more money in my pocket that I get to use to provide for my young family.”
Another huge benefit for the students is the connections they are making in the business community.
Jeppsen, a junior biology major from Lewiston agrees. His Work Scholar job is at the Snake River Community Clinic, a free medical clinic for low income and uninsured patients. The Work Scholars program allows Jeppsen to work in his field of interest. He plans to go to graduate school and become a physician’s assistant. At the Snake River Clinic, he currently fills medications prescribed by doctors, and eventually will be working more directly with patients by taking information and vitals.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to get our students connected with the opportunities right here in our Valley,” said Erin Cassetto, director of the LC Work Scholars program. “It opens so many doors for them and they help provide a strong work force that stays here.”
There are 52 worksites for the program and that number continues to grow, according to Cassetto, who actively recruits businesses to be involved. Some students work on campus, while others are working for the Clearwater Economic Development Association (CEDA), Clearwater Power, Idaho Department. of Environmental Quality, Follett, Hydraulic Warehouse, Lewis-Clark Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, Snake River Clinic, Summit Utility Contractors LLC, Valley Vision, Boys and Girls Club of the Lewis Clark Valley, and Second Judicial District Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
Because the students are usually placed in internship-like positions, they are often able to earn internship college credits. Cassetto said businesses also pay a stipend to have a Work Scholar student.
“The program allows me to work and attend school, which sometimes can be really hard to do,” said Angel Barnett, a senior from Kamiah majoring in chemistry and minoring in geographic info systems. “The work site works around my school hours and the work I’m doing is right in line with my minor so I’m gaining great experience.”
Barnett has been working on traffic studies in Lewiston for the Lewis-Clark Valley MPO. The data she is collecting will help determine traffic flow and if stop lights or signs are needed in certain areas.
Because the program is funded by the state of Idaho, all students involved are Idaho residents. Many are from the Lewiston area, but this year’s participants are also from Boise, Moyie Springs, Emmett, Gooding, Glenns Ferry, Hammett, Salmon, Nampa, Kuna, and Victor.
In order to be considered for the program, a student must fill out an application, which is then reviewed by the LC Work Scholars office. Along with being an Idaho resident, a student must demonstrate financial need, be academically talented, maintain an accumulative 3.0 GPA or better, and be a full-time degree-seeking student, for either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, to qualify for the program. The applications are reviewed and the number accepted is dependent on the funding.
Cassetto said the program is great for both students and businesses. She said a few students have been hired by the business for which they worked because the business was able to see first-hand the quality of work and work ethic of the student. It saves the business time and money from having to do a search to find the right employee.
The program also has enjoyed tremendous success in helping students earn their degree at LCSC. Every student in the program from last spring is enrolled at the college this fall. The program has had 11 graduates thus far with 12 more scheduled this spring.
Another area of success has been most of the Work Scholar students are the first generation in their family to attend college. In the spring of 2017, 86 percent of the participants were first generation college students, and 81 percent made the college’s spring Honor Roll.
“The program is amazing,” Barnett said. “I have nothing bad to say about it. And the Work Scholars staff has been great to work with. They listen to what you like and don’t like and they make adjustments. It’s just a great program.”
“It’s a great program that has been very successful,” Cassetto said. “We’re very thankful to have this program.”