Picture this. You have found the perfect Iowa college program to help you on your career path, whether you are just finishing high school or starting fresh as an adult learner. However, after applying for all other available federal and state grants and scholarships, your budget for tuition and qualified fees still falls short. Is this the end of your dream for higher education?
No. The Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship can help students achieve their educational and career goals by providing financial support when budget gaps occur.
“This scholarship is really unique,” said Elizabeth Keest Sedrel, spokesperson for Iowa College Aid. “It’s one of the few state and federal aid opportunities – aside from loans – that isn’t based on income guidelines. It’s based on jobs and fields of study that are in high demand by the community.”
The Last-Dollar Scholarship covers tuition and qualified fees for postsecondary credentials up to two-year degrees. Recent high school graduates typically must enroll full-time in programs of study that lead to designated high-demand jobs in fields like health care and biosciences, advanced manufacturing, agriculture and information technology. Soon, recent high school graduates in approved work-based learning programs, like Registered Apprenticeships, will be able to attend part-time. Adult learners, defined as being over the age of 20, may also attend part-time. All students must first apply for all other nonrepayable federal and state financial aid to qualify for Last-Dollar Scholarship.
Stephanie Jenkins, an 18-year-old from Dubuque, is enrolled in the medical assistant program at Northeast Iowa Community College and is a recipient of the Last-Dollar Scholarship.
“Last-Dollar Scholarship was so easy to do,” she said. “In fact, I didn’t have to do anything special. I just completed my FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and the college let me know I was awarded.”
Jenkins did not qualify for any other student aid, so the Last-Dollar Scholarship was helpful in covering her tuition for two semesters.
“Last-Dollar Scholarship was great for me,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about getting a part-time job while in school to help pay for tuition. I could just focus on learning.”
To further help students stay focused on learning, recipients of the Last-Dollar Scholarship are also eligible to receive assistance through the Future Ready Iowa Mentoring Program, the Virtual College Coach and on-campus Success Coaches. These services provide students with additional resources and ways to stay engaged while taking classes. To date, 87 Last-Dollar Scholars have signed up for mentoring, and 641 have signed up for text messaging or online appointments with the virtual coach.
All 15 Iowa community colleges and two private colleges participate in the Last-Dollar Scholarship program, and all 99 counties have recipients. The Last-Dollar Scholarship helped more than 6,500 Iowa students during the 2019-2020 school year, and an average of $2,200 was provided to each student.
“The Last-Dollar Scholarship really benefits both the student and the community,” Keest Sedrel said. “Students, of course, receive financial assistance, but Iowa businesses that need skilled personnel are also getting a stronger workforce.”
The Dubuque area will reap the benefits of having more trained personnel entering its workforce. Jenkins expects to complete her medical assistant program this summer and has already found employment at a medical clinic in town.
“I am looking forward to helping people around my own community,” Jenkins said.
Students are encouraged to review the list of community college programs that train for high-demand careers and to file the FAFSA early to start the eligibility process for Last-Dollar Scholarship. For more information, visit IowaCollegeAid.gov/LastDollar.
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