Local Students Making Most of Free-Tuition Opportunity Provided By Sullivan Promise Scholarship

After graduating from Tri-Valley High School last year, Reese Shelmandine was planning to go to SUNY Cobleskill to pursue a four-year degree. The Sullivan Promise Scholarship, which offers free-tuition to Sullivan County high school graduates, helped change his mind.

Pictured: Reese Shelmandine

“Once I saw that they had environmental majors (at SUNY Sullivan), it caught my interest, and then when I qualified for the Promise Scholarship, it made me want to come here,” said Shelmandine, who said the Promise Scholarship has enabled him to take advantage of affordable opportunities at SUNY Sullivan close to home that he can transfer to a four-year school. “I haven’t taken some of the base classes I need for an environmental major, so I’m taking them here, and it feels a lot more comforting taking them here and not being so far from home.”

Shelmandine is one of 64 Sullivan County high school graduates from the class of 2022 who have taken advantage of the Promise Scholarship, which was established last spring by the Sullivan County Legislature. The tuition-free scholarship remains available for 2022 Sullivan County high school graduates and GED recipients interested in attending SUNY Sullivan in for the Spring 2023 semester, and the Legislature has pledged to continue the Promise program for 2023 high school graduates and GED recipients applying to the College in 2023-24.

Pictured: Antony Waite

“Student debt in the US represents the largest single consumer debt held, at approximately $1.7 Trillion. While colleges work very hard to contain the costs and community colleges represent the best ‘bang for the buck,’ we are very fortunate that Sullivan County recognizes that access to affordable college is a game changer for communities,” said SUNY Sullivan President Jay Quaintance. “Communities with higher levels of educational attainment benefit in many ways. Greater earning opportunities, greater economic opportunities, increased rates of home ownership, improved public health outcomes. The list goes on. Congratulations to the students who chose to stay close to home and attend SUNY Sullivan as a result of the Promise Scholarship. I know they will go on to great careers and be the next generation of change agents in their communities.”

Like Shelmandine, many Promise recipients took advantage of the scholarship to stay close to home, save money on credits toward a four-year degree, to try out classes before committing to a four-year degree program, or simply just to take the financial pressure off attending college.

“The Promise Scholarship allows me to stay close to home and receive an education that is free of debt,” said Nursing major Antony Waite, a Sullivan West graduate who still plans to get a four-year nursing degree, but is taking advantage of the savings gained as a Promise Scholar. “As a nursing student, there are tons of stressors, and I am relieved that paying for education is not one of them. The scholarship is what helped me choose to pursue my education at SUNY Sullivan, it is a great opportunity for any Sullivan County graduate.”

Pictured: Kailyn Minckler

“Getting the Promise Scholarship has taken a lot of the stress out of how to pay for college,” said Liberal Arts and Sciences/Biology major Kailyn Minckler, a Sullivan West graduate who plans to pursue a degree in forensic science after she graduates from Sullivan. The scholarship didn’t change my plans at all, (but) it helped me save a lot of money for when I transfer to a four-year college.”

Graphic Design major Kathryn Widman said her plan was always to study two years at SUNY Sullivan and then pursue a four-year degree in art education at SUNY New Paltz, but the Promise Scholarship has allowed her to go to school full-time and save the money she earns in the summer to put toward a four-year degree in the future.

“It’s helped me a lot,” said Widman, a Sullivan West graduate. “The promise scholarship takes the burden of tuition off your mind. I can focus on school. During the summer, I can save up for when I do transfer and have to pay for tuition.”

County leaders and local school officials are excited to see the impact the Promise program is having on local students.

“Our local high school graduates have plenty of obstacles to higher education – tuition being one of the biggest,” Legislature Chairman Robert A. Doherty noted. “So, this Legislature is proud to offer our residents a clear path to a successful future, free of a crushing debt burden and appreciative of the quality education they’ll receive at SUNY Sullivan.”

“The Promise Scholarship is a game changer for our students,” said Fallsburg Junior Senior High School Principal Kyle Roddey. “By providing free tuition and fees to county residents, this eliminates a major barrier for our learners who aspire to attend college. Fallsburg students are absolutely incredible in so many ways, and we encourage them to utilize this program to supercharge their futures. College can open up limitless opportunities and this program will allow these students to develop skills to reach their goals for now and well into the future.”

To learn more about the Sullivan Promise Scholarship, visit sunysullivan.edu/sullivan-promise-scholarship.

Registration for Winter Express Semester and Spring Semester at SUNY Sullivan is open, applying is free, and Admissions advisors are always available to discuss your options. Learn more by emailing admissions@sunysullivan.edu, calling 845-434-5750 x4287, or visiting sunysullivan.edu.

About SUNY Sullivan

SUNY Sullivan is the leader of innovative higher education and a catalyst for workforce development throughout the Sullivan Catskills and beyond. Our diverse community cultivates personal growth and professional advancement, preparing students for success in a sustainable and interconnected world. A forward-looking, top-tier community college in New York, SUNY Sullivan offers over 40 degree programs, certificates, and micro-credentials for learners at all levels of their educational goals. We value critical inquiry and creativity while supporting our students in a culture of inclusion and respect.


December 15, 2022

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