Scholarship season is here. If you’re a soon-to-be or recent graduate or the parent of one looking to get some help paying for college or trade school, this can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking moment.

Gathering all the right papers, filling out all the applications and making decisions about where or what to study is certainly a challenge. Thinking about the future and all its possibilities can be pretty thrilling too.

Fortunately, many generous people want to help young people realize the possibilities and have established scholarship funds through the Four County Community and Lapeer County Community foundations and other sources. More than $180,000 in scholarship funds from the Four County Community Foundation went to students from Almont, Capac, Dryden and Imlay City just last year.

There’s no question that scholarships along with grants and financial aid give students the boost they need to get a diploma or certificate but the financial burden can still be hefty. A study from Sallie Mae and Ipsos shows that the majority—44 percent—of college costs in 2019-20 came from parents’ income and savings, followed by scholarships and grants at 25 percent and student borrowing at 13 percent. As of 2020, U.S. student debt was at more than $1.5 trillion

Funding assistance that goes beyond the first year of school is pretty critical too. According to Scholarship America, the number one reason students cite for dropping out of school is money. Having to work long hours and complete assignments isn’t manageable for everyone.

The good news is that more than half of all families had a plan in the 2019-20 academic year to pay for college, Sallie Mae reports. The outlook is brighter for many families across Lapeer County wanting to do the same for their children since the Lapeer County Community Foundation launched their Lapeer Education Attainment Fund (LEAF) child savings account program. Each Lapeer County kindergarten student is automatically enrolled in LEAF and given a $25 deposit into their account from the foundation as a way to promote and incentivize saving for post-secondary education.

It’s an honor to be a part of such a generous community that wants to see its youth grow, learn and succeed in life.