Augusta Technical College received $20,000 from Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse on Monday, marking the school's first company-sponsored scholarship program.
Winning the Lowe's grant highlights Augusta Tech's success in its work force training curriculum and is another sign that two-year colleges focused on finding jobs for students have done well during a tough job market.
The funds will be funneled through the store on Bobby Jones Expressway and will go to 10 students studying either business or a range of technical fields, from home repairs to horticulture, that can prepare them for a possible position with the company.
While the college has received charitable contributions from many private businesses during past fund-raising efforts, this is the school's first tie-in with a company scholarship fund; in this case the Lowe's Education Scholarship Program.
Augusta Tech is only the second college in Georgia after Gwinnett Technical College outside Atlanta to be eligible for the funds, which Mike Mineheart says must meet strict criteria such as helping prepare its students for the work force.
Mr. Mineheart, the manager of the Martinez store, said one factor in Augusta Tech's favor was that the three local Lowe's, including one in Aiken, make the metro area important for business.
"The way our company is growing, as with any establishment, getting help is essential for us," Mr. Mineheart said. "Hopefully these students will fit in with our hiring plans when they are done here."
The competition for scholarship money comes as Georgia and other states scale back budget dollars earmarked for education. That makes the grant all the more important, said Terry Elam, the college's president.
"There's a lot of talk about the HOPE Scholarship, but that doesn't cover everybody. Here we have 10 scholarships for 10 students. This is big," said Mr. Elam, who pointed out that the $2,000 scholarships rank among the school's largest.
"This is not only for tuition, but will also go toward books, and anything left over will go into an account for the student selected for the scholarship."
As tuition costs across the country relentlessly rise and many graduates find it increasingly hard to land a job, technical - also known as community- colleges and their emphasis on work force training have gained popularity.
"When the economy is not doing well, historically our enrollments go up. Now it's even higher than usual," said Norma Kent, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Community of Colleges in Washington. "We have a fairly high percentage of adult learners who have been right-sized or downsized or whatever they call getting fired nowadays."
Almost half of the country's undergraduates are enrolled at community colleges.
Last month, Augusta Tech unveiled an $8.4 million expansion effort that will add a new student services building and classrooms. Enrollment has grown nearly 20 percent in the past few years.
Interested students have until Friday to apply on the Lowe's Web site at www.lowes.com/scholarships. Augusta Tech's scholarship committee will announce the winners June 2.
Students have until Friday to apply for the Lowe's scholarship at www.lowes.com/scholarships. Here are some of the criteria:
Reach Matthew Mogul at (706) 823-3352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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