walker%2csydney-1A Benton County student pursuing higher education opportunities has received additional financial assistance this fall thanks to a scholarship from the Benton County Community Foundation and its host foundation, the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa. The $1,000 scholarship is part of CFNEIA’s largest total scholarship award amount in its 60-year history. In 2016, CFNEIA awarded 273 scholarships totaling $446,000 to students across Iowa.

 Syndey Walker, a graduate from Vinton-Shellsburg High School, was awarded the Marlyn and Ann Jorgensen Family Scholarship. Walker is attending Iowa State University, majoring in agriculture communications and international agriculture.

“We want to congratulate these students on their accomplishments and hope they find success as they follow their dreams,” said Kaye Englin, CFNEIA President and CEO. “We are excited to continue to increase support for deserving students through scholarships, and we are honored to carry out the wishes of our fundholders with a passion for the education of tomorrow’s leaders.

Scholarships are increasingly important for students seeking higher education. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, 66 percent of all 2015 graduates of Iowa colleges and universities had student loan debt averaging $29,547. Student debt in the U.S. is currently over $1 trillion, second only to mortgage debt.

“The ever-growing cost of higher education continues to be a barrier for youth, making scholarships more important than ever,” said Englin. “These scholarships established by generous donors have become, and will continue to be, a critical resource for students.”

 CFNEIA scholarship awards vary in size from $250 to $60,000 and are awarded based on various criteria, including, but not limited to, academic excellence, financial need, for pursuing certain careers or majors, past experiences, location or high school attended.

 The 2017 scholarship application process opens on January 10. Scholarship opportunities can be found on the CFNEIA website at cfneia.org/scholarships.

 For more information on CFNEIA’s scholarship program, contact Tom Wickersham, Program Director, at (319) 243-1356.