Scholarship opens free college to Freeborn Co. students

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

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After months of planning, Riverland Community College, the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency and the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday announced the Freeborn County Community Promise Scholarship to the Albert Lea High School class of 2024.

The scholarship allows graduates in Freeborn County to attend Riverland free of charge. It also includes the graduating class of Alden-Conger, Glenville-Emmons and NRHEG schools.

“It was created to support you in the next steps in developing your career path — whether you’re looking for a certificate, whether you know what you want to do, whether you need to explore some career paths or whether you’re planning to (do two years and) transfer to a college or university,” said Janelle Koepke, dean of institutional advancement at Riverland.

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Intended as a gap scholarship, or “last-dollar” scholarship, it covers tuition not met by other forms of aid for up to 65 credits.

Koepke said students can be a part of more than 100 programs of study on any of the college’s three campuses.

The scholarship is made possible through the financial contributions of community partner organizations, businesses, foundations and individuals because they believe education matters and each student has promise, a press release states. It was initiated as a strategy to strengthen the community and workforce, as well as to remain competitive with other communities in the region that are investing in post-secondary education, Koepke said.

To be eligible, students must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher, scored an 18 or higher on the ACT, scored an 1042 on the MCA reading test, scored an 1132 on the MCA math test or scored 31 on the ASVAB test. Students must live in Freeborn County, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form and then attend Riverland within a year after graduation.

“The goal is for many of you to be eligible, not few of you, and that’s why we chose that criteria,” Koepke said.

Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Phillip Johnson said there are many pathways to success, and today, more so than ever, the median is going back to two-year colleges.

“I would highly recommend that you consider this,” Johnson said. “It is a huge investment in your life.”

He said it could provide a way for students to make more in a career and have better benefits than some graduates of four-year degrees — and all without any debt.

Albert Lea Mayor Rich Murray after the program agreed.

“I think it’s going to help a number of our students and it’s going to help our community because we’re going to develop our future workforce through this very program,” he said. “What a great opportunity for them to go to school, right out of high school, learn a trade and go to work without any debt.”

Riverland President Kat Linaker said she is inspired by the work of Riverland’s foundation, as well as the other businesses and individuals who came together to sponsor this opportunity.

More information about the scholarship can be found at