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Scholarships for Rural Students, Schools Get National Headlines

A handful of rural scholarships are earning some national attention for their size and prestige.

A rural Kentucky college has received what has been described as one of the biggest single gifts in the history of higher education, while, separately, a rural student and two rural schools have won money from the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children.

Why are these awards significant? Rural college enrollment rates lag the national average. About 31 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in rural areas were enrolled in higher education in 2009, compared with about 46 percent in urban areas and 42 percent in suburban areas.

Centre College in Danville, Ky., a small school of about 1,370 students, learned about a week ago of an all-stock donation of $250 million from the A. Eugene Brockman Charitable Trust that will be used to establish scholarships for students majoring in science, economics, and computer science. The donation ranked among the 20 biggest gifts ever to a U.S. college or university, according to a list maintained by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Starting in the fall of 2014, 40 Brockman Scholarships will be funded annually, and recipients will receive tuition plus room and board, as well as money to support study abroad experiences, summer research or internships. More information for those interested in applying for the scholarships will be announced soon, and students should start by applying for admission to the college.

Meanwhile, the Rural School and Community Trust, one of the nation's leading rural education advocacy groups, annually nominates high-poverty rural elementary schools and high school students who have overcome challenges for money from the Leonore Annenberg Scholarship, Fellowship, and School Funds. The programs are administered by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Richard Otis, a junior at Rivendell Academy public school in Vermont, won an all-expense paid scholarship to the college of his choice. It appears to be a rare kind of scholarship for rural students in that they can't apply for it, and they don't know they're being considered until later in the nomination process.

The fund also rewarded two rural elementary schools—D. P. Cooper Elementary in Williamsburg, S.C., and North Mitchell Elementary in Mitchell County, Ga. The South Carolina school will use the money for Cwi-fi enabled laptops for every classroom, and the Georgia school plans to buy exercise equipment, update its health curriculum, and expand the school garden. The Rural Trust has more details on the winning student as well as the winning schools.

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