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UNC Offering Scholarships to Students Who Started College but Left Before Graduating

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March 25, 2022

If you’re a Colorado resident who left college before finishing your degree, there’s never been a better time to re-enroll. 

The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) is one of 31 public institutions across the state enticing Colorado residents to return to college to earn their certificate or degree by offering financial assistance and support services through the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative’s (COSI) Finish What You Started program.  

Over the next three years, UNC’s $2 million award from the state will provide $1.5 million in scholarships to 125 eligible students who started college but left before graduating. According to Nickie Archibeque, the director of UNC’s COSI program, the financial incentives equal up to $8,000 per academic year for each student, and that’s only part of the support students can expect as the program also provides critical wraparound services.  

“Research has shown that wraparound support services play a vital role in helping college students retain from semester to semester and onto graduation, especially first-generation and underserved students,” Archibeque said. “The UNC COSI Scholars program combines financial assistance with those wraparound services to provide its scholars with support in many areas of their life. That could include basic needs like food, hygiene, transportation gas vouchers and daycare expenses, as well as referrals to tutoring services, mental health and counseling services and helping scholars collaborate and build community both on and off campus.” 

Another key service the program provides is help with financial literacy which includes understanding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the ins and outs of student debt. 

“Our goal is to help Colorado students leave college with their degree but with minimal to no debt,” Archibeque said. “This scholarship provides students the opportunity to do that by minimizing their tuition and fees.” 

UNC's award for the Finish What You Started program is a portion of the $49 million in federal stimulus funds awarded to COSI in 2021 by the state to expand what started as a pilot program for Adams County residents in 2020. The funds will help address the recent significant decline in enrollment in public institutions of higher education across the state, high rate of job loss, continuing unemployment and overall disruption to the workforce caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

UNC has approximately 60 students who have re-enrolled at the university through the program, which is about half of the number the institution can serve. Archibeque wants former students to know that there’s still time to submit an application for the program and enroll for fall classes, either in-person or through online education. 

To be eligible for COSI’s Finish What You Started program, students must be Colorado residents and meet the following criteria:   

  • Have some college from any public or private institution of higher education in Colorado, but no certificate or degree. 
  • Must have been out of college for two consecutive semesters; summer counts as one semester.
  • Must have experienced an economic loss due to COVID-19.
  • Must graduate by May 2024. 

With only 65 spots remaining, anyone interested is encouraged to fill out the scholarship application on UNC’s COSI webpage by Aug. 1. Applicants will be contacted by Melisa Valtierra Tuttle, the program’s senior coordinator, to review the scholarship, eligibility and program requirements. 

— written by Deanna Herbert

After Two-Year Pandemic Pause, Scholarship Provides Path Back to College

Noah Cordova came to UNC in the fall of 2018 to study Human Services, but in spring 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns began, everythingNoah Cordova, COSI scholar changed.

“Once COVID-19 and quarantine hit and classes went online, I lost all motivation,” Cordova said. “I am a social person and I needed in-person classes and that day-to-day interaction.” 

Between the move to online classes and having to work full time to pay for tuition, Noah decided to leave UNC to focus on his mental health and paying his rent and other bills. Two years later, and after several conversations with Tobias Guzmán, UNC’s vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, about the possibility of returning to UNC, Noah applied to the COSI Finish What You Started program and was able to re-enroll in classes this past January. 

Noah is currently receiving a scholarship through the program and has been attending workshops and events on campus. More importantly, he is on track to graduate in May 2024. 

“I am so glad that Nickie and Tobias helped me get back into school and am so happy and grateful for this opportunity with COSI to finish my college degree,” Cordova said. 


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