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Pottawattamie Promise to offer Full-Ride College Scholarships and Support Services at Iowa Western Community College

April 23, 2015

An Iowa West Foundation education initiative announced today will address barriers to college access and success in higher education with a three-year pilot program that offers full-ride scholarships to Iowa Western Community College and wraparound support services. Beginning this fall, the first cohort of 45 students made up of current seniors from the Council Bluffs Community and Riverside school districts will enroll at IWCC to pursue their post secondary educational opportunity of choice.

Tuition funding is just one component of the $5.3 million initiative, of which the Iowa West Foundation contributed $2.3 million, called “Pottawattamie Promise.” Support services for students also will include specialized math instruction in high school and counseling services both in high school and college. Students also will be provided campus housing as part of their scholarships.

“Census data show us that approximately 400 students in Pottawattamie County per year lack the access to higher education due to a variety of barriers,” said Pete Tulipana, President and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation. “The goal is to gradually grow the program, beginning with just 45 students, and meet the full need in five years.”

The Iowa West Foundation is partnering with the three local educational institutions – Iowa Western Community College, the Council Bluffs Community School District and Riverside Community School District – and with the AKSARBEN Foundation and the Peter Kiewit Foundation on the Pottawattamie Promise.

“This initiative will have a tremendous impact on our communities in southwest Iowa,” Tulipana said. “It is particularly meaningful because it is a partnership between three foundations who are committed to southwest Iowa.”

Based on a national model, Pottawattamie Promise is geared toward first-generation, Pell-eligible students whom –if it weren’t for these scholarships and services –might not have considered college a possibility. Following the 2015-2016 school year, the pilot will ramp up to serve 110 students in 2016-2017, followed by 165 in 2017-2018, with each scholarship valued at up to $14,000 per year depending on the program chosen by the student. The program’s goal is to reach 400 students by 2020.

“It is our hope that this will expand to all Pottawattamie County high schools,” Tulipana said. “Research shows that students who graduate from community colleges stay in their communities and we hope these graduates will begin their careers as members of our region’s workforce.”

Scholarships recipients will have the choice of earning a two-year degree, a professional credential or a program certificate.

“This scholarship opened the door for me,” said Madison Martinez, a senior at Riverside High School. “I plan to take full advantage of this opportunity to achieve great things.”

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About the Iowa West Foundation

The Iowa West Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the Midwest. It has distributed more than $320 million in grants to non-profits and governmental agencies through southwest Iowa and eastern Nebraska since the inception of its grant program in 1996. Funding for the grants comes from investment earnings and the Iowa West Racing Association, which receives contractual fees from casino operators, Ameristar and Harrah’s. IWRA is the license sponsor for Ameristar and Harrah’s and the license holder for Horseshoe-Bluffs Run.
For more information on the Foundation, visit

Pottawattamie Promise – What Others Are Saying

“The Pottawattamie Promise is designed to help students not just access and afford higher education, but also receive the preparation and support they need to succeed and graduate. Earning that degree or certificate will position Promise recipients for great jobs that help them earn a good living, support their families and contribute to our regional economy.”
-Jeff Kutash, Executive Director of the Peter Kiewit Foundation

“AKSARBEN Foundation’s network of business leaders is committed to creating pathways of success for Nebraska and western Iowa youth through the many scholarship programs and partnerships of AKSARBEN Scholars. AKSARBEN’s partnership with Pottawattamie Promise is in perfect harmony with our expanding investment to become a leading, best-practice career pathways provider for talented youth in need of support and financial assistance. By working collectively, in partnership with other leading organizations, each Pottawattamie Promise partner maximizes the return of every dollar invested, and elevates the public discourse on creating a strong, regional education and workforce development pipeline, from school to career.”
– Jon Burt, President of the AKSARBEN Foundation

“Nearly 75 percent of our graduates remain in the area to continue their education or to begin careers in their fields of study. We believe the Pottawattamie Promise program will provide a larger number of local high school students the access to obtain the skills and knowledge that will enable them to contribute to the growth and strengthening of our community.”
– Dr. Dan Kinney, President of Iowa Western Community College

“The Pottawattamie Promise will not only provide much needed assistance for some of our students with improved opportunities, but it will help high schools understand how to better prepare all of their students for success after graduation. If our communities are going to grow as much as some predictions say that it will in the next 50 years, we need people who can problem solve and be trained and retrained for changing times and opportunities. We want our students to be the capable workforce that will be waiting to fill those jobs and solve those problems.”
-Dr. Jim Sutton, Superintendent of Riverside Community School District

“On behalf of the Council Bluffs Community School District employees, I’m extremely pleased with the support for our students and for our whole community by the initiation of Pottawattamie Promise. The generous support of the Iowa West Foundation continues to be a game changer for students in our schools. The partnership with the Peter Kiewit Foundation and AKSARBEN Foundation seems like a dream come true. The months of hard work in this collaboration will result in lifetimes of changed opportunities for hundreds of students.”
-Dr. Martha Bruckner, Superintendent of Council Bluffs Community School District

Pottawattamie Promise By the Numbers

Less than one-third of Pottawattamie County residents age 25 and older have an associate’s degree or higher.

62% of all jobs in Iowa will require postsecondary training or education by 2018.

The number of students who will enroll at Iowa Western Community College as part of Pottawattamie Promise program this fall is 45.

Approximately 65 new students will enter the program in 2016 and 100 new students in 2017, with a goal of 400 students by 2020.

The total cost of the three-year pilot program is approximately $5.3 million, of which the Iowa West Foundation contributed $2.3 million.

Students in the Pottawattamie Promise program will take 4 years of math in high school, including college-level statistics.

Low-income, first-generation students who lived on the Iowa Western Community College campus had a college completion rate of 85%.

$14,064: the total projected cost for tuition, fees, books and room and board for two semesters at IWCC.

The cost to a Pottawattamie Promise student: $0

Pottawattamie Promise Frequently Asked Questions

What is the overall cost of the program?
Over the course of the three-year pilot program, the Iowa West Foundation is providing a total of approximately $2.3 million. The total cost of the program is approximately $5.3 million.

Why Council Bluffs Community School District and Riverside?
Our vision is to expand this program to all of Pottawattamie County in the years following the three-year pilot. We’re grateful to the Council Bluffs Community and Riverside School Districts for agreeing to participate in the pilot and the nearly two-year planning process. We intentionally selected one urban and one rural school in order to be able to evaluate them accordingly at the completion of the pilot so that we can successfully scale the Pottawattamie Promise program county-wide to 400 students by 2020.

What will determine if the program is successful enough to expand following the 3-year pilot?
While the ultimate goal is to see more students gainfully employed in the region as a result of their academic credential (degree, diploma or certificate), Pottawattamie Promise has other progress and outcome metrics in place as well, including academic success, persistence and completion.

How are the students identified for eventual scholarships?
Students were nominated by teams at their buildings. The teams included building administrators and counselors. Students had to be able to demonstrate financial need, have a GPA of 2.0 or above and be on track to graduate. Student nominees were interviewed by a team from their high school. Representatives from Iowa Western Community College and the community were included on the teams when possible.

Media Inquiries:

Nicole Lindquist
Director of Communications
w: 712-309-3004
c: 402-981-2289

OUR VISION is a community where families choose to live, and businesses choose to locate, because of its quality of life and standard of living.


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