Sabrina Perez

The THRIVE Scholarship: Putting the ‘Community’ in Community College

In Amarillo, opportunity is a community effort. Thanks to the collaborative spirit of local schools and business leaders – not to mention the exceptionally low cost of living – Amarillo empowers young people to take the next steps in their professional lives.

The THRIVE scholarship at Amarillo College (AC) is one shining example of the opportunities that abound here. A collaboration between AC and several local partner organizations, the scholarship offers a cost-free pathway for students to pursue higher education right in their hometown.

The primary aim of the THRIVE scholarship is to drive economic growth while also increasing high school graduation rates and diversifying the area’s workforce. Thanks to the scholarship and many other accomplishments, AC is attracting national recognition for its positive impact on the community.

Here’s an overview of the scholarship, as well as some of the latest news of how it’s helping Amarillo students flourish.

Overview: What THRIVE Covers

AC awarded the first THRIVE scholarships in 2019. The program will run through 2024, during which time it will provide assistance to more than 8,500 student recipients. The scholarship is funded through the support of four local organizations: AC, the Amarillo Independent School District, the Amarillo Area Foundation, and the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation.

As opposed to need-based aid such as Pell Grants, the THRIVE scholarship is a “last money in” tuition assistance program. This means it supplements other forms of aid to cover tuition, books, and fees for up to 60 credit hours or three years of study – whichever comes first.

That essentially means that THRIVE scholarship recipients can get a free associate degree and cut the cost of a four-year degree in half.


Continuing to Thrive in 2021

In June, AC was honored to receive an unsolicited $15 million donation from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. In recent months, Scott has gifted billions of dollars to high-impact nonprofits and charities that work to address the needs of underserved communities, including many historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), as well as community colleges like AC.

The donation is not only by far the largest donation the college has received, it’s also one of the largest ever seen in the Amarillo community. Even better, the gift comes with no strings attached, meaning that AC can use its sole discretion in deciding how to use the funds to best serve the needs of the local community.

This unexpected windfall is just the latest good news at AC. In May, the Aspen Institute named AC one of the top five community colleges in the country, recognizing the college with its 2021 Rising Star Award. This prestigious distinction also comes with a $100,000 gift.

However, the assistance hasn’t stopped there. Earlier this year, AC chose to use the nearly $2.4 million relief it received from the CARES Act to write off the debt of its entire student body. Combined with aid from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act (CRRSA), this community-minded decision has empowered local students to pursue their education with fewer barriers – even in the midst of the pandemic.

expanding horizons

When you have the support of your community and local institutions, thriving is easy. Whether you’re going back to school or headed there for the first time, the THRIVE scholarship and AC’s many other student-first initiatives help expand the horizons of newcomers and lifelong residents alike – and make their dreams all the more achievable.

Take Root in Amarillo