Tulsa Community College’s Tulsa Achieves Scholarship Program
Will Burnett’s journey from high school to college was viable due to Tulsa Community College’s (TCC) Tulsa Achieves scholarship program. Burnett graduated from Union High School in 2011 and is now finishing up his first semester of college at TCC.
“I heard about the program several years before I graduated from Union and knew many other Union grads who had gone into the program. I am studying business and marketing and know this opportunity at TCC will help me to hopefully continue my education at OSU in a year and major in business,” said Burnett, who juggles work, a fulltime class load and volunteering in the community.
Started in 2007, Tulsa Achieves’ purpose is to provide students in Tulsa County the opportunity to attend college based on their ability to achieve, not their ability to pay. To date, over 7,400 Tulsa County high school graduates have received a Tulsa Achieves scholarship since the program’s inception.
To qualify for a Tulsa Achieves scholarship, a high school senior must be a Tulsa county resident, a U.S. citizen or legal resident, earn a high school diploma and have a 2.0 GPA or better on his or her final high school transcript. Home school graduates also qualify, but students earning a GED do not. Tulsa Achieves scholars must attend TCC straight out of high school.
Under the Tulsa Achieves program, Burnett’s only college costs during his time at TCC are for his textbook and school supplies. “With my work, I can manage paying for books quite easily,” he said. “Plus, I can save money for college costs down the road.”
Tulsa Achieves pays full tuition and fees for up to 63 credit hours or three years, whichever comes first. To remain in the program students must maintain a 2.0 GPA or higher and perform 40 hours of volunteer service each academic year.
Tim Fernandez, director of Tulsa Achieves, said about 2,000 students enroll in the program each year. “This program has made a huge impact in the community. We are the only program of this nature in the country. Tulsa Achieves was founded with the idea of a way to keep educated Tulsa youths in Tulsa,” Fernandez said. “By helping students get to TCC we are helping our community gain smart, educated kids.”
Fernandez said the retention rate for Tulsa Achieves students is about 13 percent higher than for other students who come directly from high school without a Tulsa Achieves scholarship. “I spend a lot of my time visiting Tulsa high schools and talking to students and college counselors about Tulsa Achieves. I want them to know what they can do to go to college for free and that we really work with our Tulsa Achieves students to keep them on track and planning for their future, whether it be moving on to a four-year college or joining the workforce.”
Tulsa Achieves, said Fernandez, has increased the rate of Tulsa County high school graduates going directly to college as well as increased the amount of first-time freshman. “Our Tulsa Achieves students are highly sought after by every four-year college in the state. They are knocking on our doors wanting our students to know about their schools and scholarships.”
Tulsa University (TU) Senior Associate Dean of Admissions, Barbara Adkins said TU offers Tulsa Achieves graduates who have been admitted to TU and have a 3.0 GPA a $6000 a year scholarship. “We applaud TCC’s commitment to making higher education accessible to so many Tulsa County students, and our scholarship is the first step in a financial aid package for Tulsa Achieves students who want to complete their bachelor’s degree at TU.”
All Tulsa Achieves students must take a “Strategies for Academic Success” class during their first year at TCC. Burnett said the class has taught him how to navigate through college.
“We learn about different degrees and how to manage classes, manage our time and take notes. And it is also a motivational class,” Burnett said. “We discuss goal setting and future plans. It answers a lot of questions you have about college, grades and financing an education.”
Tulsa Achieves students must also complete 40 hours a year of community volunteer service. “Being involved in the community shows the students the importance of having a connection with the community as well as making a commitment to something,” Fernandez said.
Utilizing the business and marketing skills he learned in class, Burnett organized for his volunteer service a TCC walkathon benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I think it is a cool organization and there are about 133 Tulsa kids who are receiving treatment at St. Judes. I had some fellow Tulsa Achieves freshmen on the planning committee so they were able to pick up some of their volunteer hours. We got Dick’s Sporting Goods and Mardels to be sponsors,” Burnett said.