Wayland joins community in urging PEP commitments on Sept. 19

PLAINVIEW — Committing to maintaining a B average with 95 percent attendance for two years can earn a year of free tuition at Wayland Baptist University for Plainview High School and Plainview Classical Academy juniors who accept the Plainview Educational Partnership (PEP) program challenge on Sept. 19.

For 30 years, local high school juniors, along with their parents, have been asked whether they will accept the PEP challenge. Another group will be asked during a PEP informational meeting at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 19, in the cafeteria at Plainview High School. Those unable to attend the informational meeting can pick up a contract in the Admissions Office at Wayland or at PHS.  Contracts must be returned by Oct. 24.

“That could be the million-dollar question,” said Don Williams, PEP chairman. “Accepting the PEP challenge can be the first critical step toward a college degree at a time when a college degree nearly doubles a worker’s annual earnings. Today, a bachelor’s degree is worth about $1 million more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma, according to a recent report from the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau.”

PEP program requirements are simple, but commitment is required.

“Both the student and parents must sign the contract and make the commitment to maintain a B average with 95 percent attendance for their junior and senior years,” Williams said. “The reward for fulfilling those terms is a year’s tuition at Wayland Baptist University.”

Last year, a total of 17 students reaped the benefits of having met the PEP challenge. Those students benefited from scholarships totaling $194,526.

It’s not just students and parents who make a commitment. Wayland and the Plainview community, through Plainview Area United Way, make a financial commitment each year.

“PEP is an amazing program that gives an opportunity to people who may not have had an opportunity to start college,” said Dr. Claude Lusk, Senior Vice President of Operations and Student Life, who also serves as PEP vice president. “PEP opens the door to be at Wayland for those who might not see Wayland as an option.”

“Wayland continues to support the educational pursuits of Plainview’s best and brightest in two distinct ways,” said Dr. Cindy McClenagan, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “First, by offering on-campus, dual-credit classes to eligible area high school students every semester, and second, through the decades-old Plainview Educational Partnership program that encourages qualified high school graduates to attend their first year at Wayland tuition free. We’re not aware of any other institution in the state that offers both of these unique, educationally affirming opportunities to its community at such a huge discount.”

“Plainview is thought to be the only community in the country combining their United Way and local university to invest in higher education for their youth,” Williams said.

He explained that PEP is based on the idea that a college degree is as important for this generation as a high school diploma was for the last.

“College educated young people are better qualified for employment in the information age,” he said. “Our community benefits as they develop as citizens and employees with more knowledge in a variety of subjects.   The benefits of this education allow them a more productive and more satisfying life.”  

PEP grew out of a 1991 luncheon conversation Williams, who was then President of Plainview Chamber of Commerce, had with Henry Cisneros, then Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. “My thought was this kind of program would provide an incentive for students to stay in school, do their best, and have the opportunity to go to college,” Williams said.

He described Wayland as “a fantastic partner, aggressive and creative in attracting and retaining students,” also noting “Many PEP students continue at Wayland to receive their degree and post graduate degrees.” 

PEP has provided nearly $5 million in tuition since the inception of the program.

“That’s an average of nearly $5,000 tuition for each of the over 1,000 PEP students in return for their commitment and effort,” Williams said. “What other community has a United Way and a university that have invested this much in their young people? It’s just another confirmation that people make a difference in this town.”

Three decades after PEP was started, university and community support for the program remain strong.

McClenagan joined Williams in encouraging high school juniors and their parents to make sure they attend the informational meeting and sign a PEP contract.

“It could make the difference between going and not going to college,” Williams said.

“Wayland stands ready to help you get prepared for college,” McClenagan said. “Meet the PEP challenge and your first year of tuition is on us and this wonderful community.”

McClenagan and Lusk agreed with Williams, who said, “It’s not just about the money; it’s about a better life.”