Thanks to the generosity of regional benefactors, many western North Dakota students can pursue their dreams without diving into debt.
The late Alyce Travers is one donor who had the foresight to develop an educational trust to support high school graduates from Bowman County and Harding County, S.D.
“God bless Alyce Travers. That’s probably what we say frequently in Bowman County. Many, many, many – hundreds – of our students have benefited,” says Bowman County High School Counselor Pam Fisher.
Born in 1913 in Minnesota, Alyce Travers graduated from a South Dakota high school. She married John Travers and the couple lived and ranched in Harding County, S.D. The couple remained childless, so after her husband died, Alyce established the John and Alyce B. Travers Scholarship, putting her mineral rights into an educational trust.
Since 1996, the trust has funded college scholarships for Bowman County High School, Scranton High School and Harding County High School graduates who attend North Dakota State University (NDSU), the University of North Dakota (UND), Dickinson State University (DSU) or the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS). The colleges receive the scholarship funding, set criteria and accept applications from the qualifying high school graduates. The scholarships are also renewable.
“We have many of our students that receive full-tuition scholarships at UND and NDSU,” Fisher says. “A full-tuition scholarship for four years, that’s a significant amount of money.”
Wendy and Jim Bartholomay’s three children attending NDSU all received full-tuition Travers scholarships after graduating from Bowman County High School. Kathryn is a junior studying biochemistry and molecular biology; Alex is a sophomore studying accounting with a minor in management information systems; and Mikayla is a freshman studying finance. Their fourth child, Abigail, is a junior at Bowman County High School.
“Thank God for Alyce Travers and her foresight and willingness to help future students and future employees of North Dakota,” Wendy says.
The scholarship opportunity convinced Kathryn to stay at a North Dakota school, Wendy says, and will help Kathryn continue to graduate school.
“The scholarship will allow her to continue that education immediately, rather than having to take some time off to work before continuing on, so there’s lots of benefits to it,” Wendy says.
“What Alyce did is set it up for our students, if they pay attention to their academics, to come out of college without that burden of a big debt on them and it made it feasible for a lot of those kids to go to college who may have not been able to afford college without that opportunity from her,” Wendy says.
WSC helps students
Regional high school graduates also have scholarship opportunities at Williston State College (WSC).
The Williams County Graduate Scholarship covers tuition and fees for up to four consecutive semesters (excluding summer) for eligible Williams County high school graduates and GEDs earned in Williams County, which includes eight area high schools.
The Regional County Scholarship covers tuition and fees for eligible high school graduates and GEDs earned within Burke, Divide, McKenzie and Mountrail counties in North Dakota and Richland, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Daniels and Valley counties in Montana.
The Williston State College Foundation and its primary partner, the Alva J. Field Trust, developed the Williams County Graduate Scholarship in 2015. The WSC Foundation then partnered with other benefactors to establish the Regional County Scholarship.
“The WSC Foundation and Alva J. Field Trust combined their knowledge and their funding to provide to even more individuals,” says Kaylyn Bondy, vice president for student affairs at WSC.
“When you think about the possibility of earning an associate’s degree close to debt-free, or at least having your tuition and fees paid, it is substantial,” she says. The national average debt at graduation from a four-year public institution among those who borrow is about $25,000, she points out. “For students and families to be able to lessen the financial burden of pursuing higher education is fantastic,” she adds.
WSC has also benefited; student enrollment has increased on campus since the scholarships were developed.
Daria Ferguson received the Regional County Scholarship to attend WSC, where she is earning a two-year degree. Her family moved to Watford City from Louisiana five years ago as part of the oil boom. The youngest of six siblings, Ferguson was homeschooled before starting at WSC in 2016. She plans to graduate in the spring with her general studies completed, then attend a four-year college to major in English.
“When my family found out there was a big scholarship that would basically mean most of my schooling for two years would be free, that really impacted my decision,” Ferguson says.
“If I didn’t have the scholarship, I definitely wouldn’t even be in North Dakota right now,” she says. “Williston is an amazing college. It’s an awesome community and I’d say definitely consider it.”
Though the Regional County Scholarship is only for recent year graduates, the Williams County Graduate Scholarship is for graduates of any year, so WSC is also seeing adults returning to college to change or advance careers. “We’ve seen some really incredible stories of people saying, ‘I want to come back,’ ” Bondy says.
“It’s been fun to witness the impact of the scholarship benefits, whether it be students maintaining little to no debt or people who are looking to change or advance careers,” she says. “WSC’s Foundation is committed to serving regional students. How amazing is it for them to be able to provide a benefit that can last a lifetime?”
Luann Dart is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the Elgin area.
Bank of ND highlights scholarship services
Paying for education beyond high school comes with challenges. The Bank of North Dakota (BND) provides a variety of financial products and services to assist with a college education. In addition to loan programs, two of the more popular financial services involve scholarships for college-bound students.
• Real DEAL scholarship – Individual $500 scholarships are given to 48 high school students over an annual six-month scholarship award period. The entire high school student population in North Dakota is divided into eight regions. Students from each region may submit a scholarship application. Each month, a random selection is conducted, which leads to the identification of a scholarship recipient from that region for that month. At the end of the six-month scholarship award period, each winner may then participate in consideration for the award of one, additional $3,000 scholarship.
“Every high school student in the state has the opportunity to apply for and receive the Real DEAL scholarship,” says Shirley Glass, BND education market manager.
• Dollars For Scholars – Community-based chapters award scholarship dollars to local students. Currently, 67 Dollars For Scholars (DFS) chapters operate in communities across North Dakota. Each chapter solicits tax-advantaged contributions from local businesses and individuals, and awards scholarships. BND administers a state chapter of Dollars For Scholars; this chapter provides monetary support and guidance for local chapters, and also has a program to make scholarship awards.
Glass indicates the DFS program has been operating in North Dakota since 1962. Since then, DFS chapters have raised nearly $36 million and awarded scholarships to more than 27,000 recipients.
For more information on scholarship and education finance services from BND, go to www.bnd.nd.gov(link is external).