Despite the troubled state of the economy, Steamboat Springs High School college counselor Gayle Dudley said several new local scholarships are available to students for the first time this year.
Dudley is more optimistic than she was just a couple of months ago, when she feared that local scholarships could dry up because of the economy. But she now has several new offerings, mostly memorial scholarships. Perennial sources of scholarships, including the Routt County Extension Office's 4-H scholarships, also are expected to remain a reliable source of assistance.
Dudley said high school students earned a total of $134,000 in local scholarships last year, and she hopes to retain about the same amount this year.
"I won't know until they actually give it out," she said. "But I've got a couple memorial (scholarships) coming in."
Scholarships in Hayden also are uncertain. Local businesses regularly contribute large amounts to students, but Hayden School District counselor Danica Moss said she is not sure what funds will be available this year.
"We do get a lot of scholarships from local companies, so it would be my hope they would still donate and value that and not cut that from the budgets, but we do get a lot of our scholarships from local businesses. So we'll see," she said.
Deadlines for some scholarship applications begin as early as this month. Most applications, however, are due in mid-April.
Dudley said the biggest scholarship provider to Steamboat students is 4-H.
"If you ever have kids and you want them to get scholarships, put them in 4-H," she said.
Routt County 4-H Extension Agent Jay Whaley said the organization, through a volunteer committee of seven members, does its best to reward deserving applicants. Last year, there were 19 scholarships awarded for 19 or 20 applicants, he said.
Scholarships ranged from $1,000 to $5,400 last year, Whaley said.
Whaley said the group typically gives out $25,000 to $31,000 per year, and since 1995, 87 students have received a total of $203,000. About half to two-thirds of the money is awarded to students already in college.
This year, the economic outlook is uncertain, but Whaley said he hopes 4-H can continue to give the same amount. Final fundraising figures will not be determined until April.
"We have had individuals through the years leave us funds, and we've invested it. We also do several annual fundraisers," he said. "We don't know how much we're going to give yet. We don't determine that until April when we look at what we have raised and what our returns are on investments."
Dudley said this year's total scholarship haul could be lower than last year because there are fewer students in the graduating class.
Decreased scholarship funding and the economic recession also could contribute to students changing their college choices, Dudley said.
"I think there are some that are looking in state - and we've seen this trend nationally as I've talked to other college counselors," she said. "I think we're also seeing nationally some (schools), particularly the private schools, have a lot of their funds in endowment funds." Those endowment funds could be feeling the effect of the economy and, therefore, reduce available financial aid.
Moss said her advice to students has become more pointed this year.
"I told a girl today, just today, to apply for everything, and make your applications absolutely perfect, because I think there will be more competition," she said.
Moss and Dudley said they are encouraging parents to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form regardless of income.
Dudley will hold a help session at 5:30 Jan. 26 for parents to fill out the form in a Steamboat Springs High School computer lab with assistance from Meghan Cave, an outreach coordinator for CollegeInvest, a state agency that serves as a financial aid resource. Parents are urged to register in advance by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 871-3641.