In 2017, Wyoming leaders announced a lofty goal: the state would boast 67 percent of its working population with a post-secondary credential attainment by 2025 and 82 percent by 2040.
With that announcement, the state’s educational institutions needed to come up with some creative solutions to engaging its potential students, said Lisa Trimble, the associate vice president of Institutional Advancement at Laramie County Community College (LCCC).
“According to the Lumina Foundation, Wyoming has 87,034 working-aged adults with just a high school diploma and 56,149 with some college, but no credential,” Trimble said. “If Wyoming were to help just 25 percent of these individuals to earn a credential, the state’s post-secondary attainment would jump from 48 percent to over 60 percent.”
So, the Rediscover LCCC program was born. It’s just one example of programs at the University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges that are working to ensure Wyoming’s workforce is prepared with the skills for tomorrow’s workplace.
Rediscover LCCC was designed as a proof-of-concept financial aid program for adult learners. It provides a full tuition-and-fees scholarship for two years (four semesters) to those who meet the qualifications:
• Students are at least 25 years old and have lived in Wyoming for at least three years;
• Students have not earned a post-secondary degree;
• Students attend LCCC full-time, attempting at least 30 credit hours per academic year;
• Students are enrolled in specific programs that have direct alignment with job/career prospects of importance to the state and region;
• Students must complete and file a FAFSA each year of enrollment; and
• Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA or better.
The program is modeled after similar successful programs in other states, such as the TN Reconnect program in Tennessee. Rediscover LCCC was designed to cover three academic years from 2018 to 2021 and serve approximately 300 individual students. The programs covered by the scholarship are determined based on high workforce needs in the region, setting the students up for successful job placement upon graduation.
Nery Bostick is currently enrolled in the program, on track to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Paralegal Studies.
Bostick grew up in a small town in Northeast Texas. She taught at a private Christian school for four years, then worked as a receptionist in Texas for eight years.
She and her husband decided they wanted a change of pace, she said. They moved to Wyoming and Bostick worked as a medical receptionist before taking a couple years off from work to travel.
“I had been out of school for 20 years and felt my brain going to mush,” she said. “I felt it would be a good idea to have an accredited, marketable degree.”
So, she investigated her options at LCCC, found the Rediscover LCCC program and enrolled in the Paralegal Studies program.
“When I re-enter the workforce, I will have a degree that is useful in a growing profession,” she said. “The training I have received while getting my degree has also helped me to learn new skills including working with newer technology and brushing up on resume drafting.”
Bostick said the program’s small student-teacher ratio has helped her get to know her instructors and build a meaningful network. Her instructors even alert the students to job openings at local firms.
“Receiving the Rediscover LCCC scholarship was a blessing because it covered my tuition, and I just had to cover books, supplies and transportation to school,” she said. “I think this program can help those who have not had an opportunity to get a degree, those who might have had to quit halfway through a degree or those who have been working but would like to expand their resume. It can also enable someone needing or wanting to change career paths.”
The funding for Rediscover LCCC is provided through private gifts from the John P. Ellbogen Foundation, the LCCC Foundation and an estate gift to specifically benefit students enrolling in identified Rediscover business programs, Trimble said.
“By working to educate our adult population, we believe we will provide a larger workforce to drive the economic growth in Wyoming,” said Trimble. “We hope this program will change the career trajectory of some members of our community, allowing them to do jobs they never thought possible, providing the necessary financial resources for their families and, ultimately, creating a new generation of students wanting to pursue a degree in higher education.”
117 students are currently receiving the Rediscover LCCC Scholarship
41 students in Business programs
21 students in Information Technology programs
9 students in Elementary Education
33 students in Health Care programs
5 students in Paralegal
8 students in the Trades