More than half of eligible students utilize free in-state tuition scholarship, officials say

Nov 13, 2017

This year, 37 members of the Wareham High School class of 2018 were awarded the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, which gives a tuition waiver for four years of college at a Massachusetts state college, but only about half of students who receive it typically utilize the scholarship.

In order to qualify for the scholarship, students must perform in the top 25 percent of their class on the MCAS. They must receive an “advanced” score in at least one category and "proficient" or higher on the other two. Since the scholarship is given to the top 25 percent, the scores needed to receive it vary each year.

In past years, 55 percent of students awarded the scholarship went on to utilize it, said Assistant Principal Deb Freitas, but even for the students who didn't, receiving the scholarship still has benefits.

Of the students who went to an in-state public school, 10 percent attended a two-year college and the rest went to a four-year school.

Many recipients don't take advantage of the scholarship, with 24 percent of students attending a private school in-state and 7 percent choosing an out-of-state college. Another 14 percent of students work, join the military or attend a vocational school.

Though the scholarship only covers tuition- “Probably the smallest part of your bill,” Freitas said- she still emphasizes to students that it's a prestigious accomplishment.

With the scholarship, students can receive free tuition from any of 15 community colleges, nine state universities and four University of Massachusetts schools.

This typically covers between 9 and 20 percent of total student college costs, depending on which school students choose. If a student attends a UMass school, the scholarship averages $1,575 per year toward total student charges.

“We try to make a big deal of the scholarship,” Freitas said. High school administrators award a certificate of achievement to students who receive the scholarship and hold an assembly to recognize them.

Even if students don’t go to a state school, the scholarship can still work in their favor, Freitas said. Students can put it on their transcript to make college applications stronger and to boost their applications for other scholarships.

“It still carries some weight even if they don’t utilize it,” Freitas said.

Freitas said it’s important for tenth graders preparing to take the MCAS to see the importance of performing well on the test. Teachers talk to them about the scholarship opportunity before the test.

“Yes, you want to pass, but you also want to do the best you can,” Freitas said.

After completing the MCAS test, which is stressful for many students, receiving this scholarship is a good way to celebrate a job well done.

“Massachusetts is known to have one of the most difficult exit exams in the country,” Freitas said. “When they do end up with high scores, they’re proud of themselves, and they should be. You can see the smiles on their faces.”

Click here for the full list of students who received the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship this year.