PEP program offers unique assistance to residents

PLAINVIEW – There are thousands of opportunities out there for students to help finance their college education, but one is only open to local residents.

The Plainview Education Partnership, an agency of the Plainview Area United Way in partnership with Wayland Baptist University, offers the first year of tuition free to graduates of Plainview High School or Plainview Christian Academy provided the students sign up in their junior year. It also gives local graduates preferential hiring for local jobs should they prefer to enter the workforce.

An information meeting to answer all the questions and specifics about the PEP Scholarship is planned for junior students and parents on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at 6 p.m. at Plainview High auditorium. At that time, students will be able to register for the program, which carries a minimal requirement for grade point average and attendance in order to receive the scholarship.

Debbie Stennett, director of admissions at WBU, noted that PEP is a unique type of tuition assistance and few cities have something of this nature. She notes that the award amount often varies by student according to their need. The student’s total financial aid package weighs in first, then PEP fills in the tuition gap for them. Books, room and board or living expenses are not covered in the PEP program.

While students are not locked into attending Wayland Baptist University by signing up for the PEP program, it does give them an option of saving tuition dollars if they choose to stay home for at least a year.

Such was the case for Luke Ingraham. He attended PCA through the tenth grade, then transferred to Plainview High School, graduating in December 2006.

He started Wayland immediately, coming in with 25 hours due to concurrent classes taken while in high school, and was excited to have a year with very few expenses, especially since he opted to live at home while in school.

“Having PEP means that I saved that money on school for a whole year, and I haven’t had to take out any student loans so far,” Ingraham said, adding that now in his junior year at Wayland he receives an academic scholarship. “PEP also allows students to work during that first year and save the money up for the next terms, so you stay ahead.”

Ingraham said while many students sign up for PEP as just one of many options for college, he did it as one of his main options for his higher education. He stayed at Wayland past the “free year” to continue his education.

“Wayland was convenient for me, and I am a third-generation WBU student,” he noted. “Also, when I was in seventh grade, Dr. Joel Boyd (associate professor of chemistry) helped me with a science project for a class here in the science lab at Wayland. And he was excited to do it. His enthusiasm and willingness to help some little seventh grader really impressed me and stuck with me. In fact, the professors here are what I really like best about Wayland.”

Now, as a molecular biology major preparing for a career in the medical field, Ingraham sees the benefit of thinking ahead those years ago and enrolling in the PEP program. He also noted a school friend, Andy Baker, was able to attend WBU his first year free as well, saving up money before transferring to the Art Institute of Phoenix, where he is studying video game and graphic design.

Hayley Cox, a 2005 Plainview High graduate and that class’ salutatorian, had a bit different experience. Like many hometown students, she had plans to attend college away from home but signed up for PEP as an outside option.

“I never thought I would end up attending Wayland but it would be a good thing to sign up for just in case. It just so happened that it was such a good deal, as far as cost, that I couldn’t pass it up,” she said.

During her senior year, Cox began seriously looking at schools and comparing costs. At that point, the PEP scholarship in her back pocket began to look really good.

“I began looking at other options and decided that Wayland was just as good a school as any other, they had the degree plan I wanted, and I liked the class size,” she said. “The free tuition helped too. It just seemed like a no-brainer that this was the place to be.”

Cox enrolled in 2005 and immediately got involved in the journalism program, enjoying her experience enough that she decided not to transfer but to stay at WBU. The atmosphere and good fit, not to mention an academic scholarship for which she qualified and some in her major field, helped guide her decision.

She edited the school newspaper for several years and worked part-time at the Plainview Daily Herald. She graduated in May 2008 with a journalism degree and is a photo assistant and writer at the Herald while she works on a master’s degree through Wayland’s Virtual Campus.

For more information about the PEP program, contact Wayland’s Office of Admissions at 291-3500 or the high school counselors.