The chance to obtain a scholarship paying half her tuition is music to the ears of Schenectady County Community College student Cassandra Santana.
Santana, 26, of Rotterdam, who carries a double-major in music and liberal arts, plans to apply for admittance into a new program the college is launching this fall for an associate’s degree in liberal arts with an honors concentration in humanities and social sciences.
The SCCC Foundation will spend about $68,000 to fund the scholarships for a first group of as many as 20 students for as much as four semesters each.
Santana is grateful for the potential funding, as tuition is $1,692 per semester for state residents.
“Besides the tuition, you also have the books, the supplies, lab fees,” she said. “Every little bit helps.”
Santana likes musical theater but also wanted to broaden her interests in playwriting with the liberal arts degree.
“I can learn some more about history and literature, so maybe I can write my own,” she said.
Carmel Patrick, executive director of development for SCCC, said the foundation was eager to support this project.
“The foundation is really about trying to boost student success at Schenectady County Community College,” she said. “We’re excited that the college is making this commitment to bringing in these motivated students who clearly want to achieve academically. We’re hoping that these scholarships will be an incentive to decide that SCCC is the place that they want to be.”
The new honors program is the result of work by Eileen Abrahams, an associate professor in the college’s Division of Liberal Arts. She said a program like this is needed at SCCC for students who want a more challenging curriculum.
“We just have really smart students,” she said.
Some of these students are choosing to attend a community college for financial or other reasons, according to Abrahams.
Under the honors program, students will be required to take more difficult math and science courses and a class about cultural differences. During the last year of the program, there will be an interdisciplinary course taught by multiple professors, according to Abrahams. The college has not designed the class yet, but one idea is a combined English and theater class on the works of playwright William Shakespeare.
Also during that second year, students will be taught how to conduct research so they can develop a project in the second semester. They will present their project to the community at the end of the year.
Students will also be able to develop a portfolio of their work, and there will be a community service component, she said. College officials are working on agreements with four-year public and private schools for students to transfer their credits into a similar honors program.
Santana said she is ready for the difficulty of the curriculum.
“It’s going to be a really intense program. It’s going to make me focus, buckle down,” she said.
She also said she is looking forward to developing contacts for future educational programs.
Students are required to have a high school average of at least 90 and a letter of recommendation from a high school teacher. They will also be interviewed by members of the Honors Committee. Once accepted, they will have to maintain a 3.0 grade-point average to remain in the program and maintain the scholarship.