Centre program aimed at first-generation students

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The largest single gift in Centre College's nearly 200-year history will create a new scholarship program for first-generation students, the liberal arts college announced Tuesday.

The first round of scholarships awarded by the Grissom Scholars Program will go to students in fall 2015, the school said. Ten Grissom Scholars will be selected from each entering class, with 40 recipients enrolled by fall 2018 at the approximately 1,400-student school in Danville.

The awards will include four-year, full-tuition scholarships plus additional aid to cover remaining financial need for qualifying students.

It's part of an ongoing effort by Kentucky's colleges and universities to raise the academic achievements of a new generation of students by attracting more students from homes where their parents never attained four-year college degrees.

Centre's new scholarship program was established by Marlene and J. David Grissom. The amount wasn't disclosed at their request, but it exceeds the school's prior record gift of $22.5 million, said Centre President John A. Roush.

The gift is believed to be the largest single donation ever to any Kentucky college or university, Centre said.

Roush called the gift "transformational," saying it will "significantly impact for good the lives of hundreds and thousands of first-generation students in the years and decades to come." Twelve percent of Centre's freshmen are first-generation students, excluding international students, the school said.

"We want them here, and we're going to make it possible for them to come and be successful," Roush said.

Grissom, an attorney and businessman, graduated from Centre in 1960 and was chairman of the school's board of trustees for more than two decades.

Current annual tuition at Centre is $37,100, with room and board an additional $9,340.

Kentucky colleges and universities are focused on attracting more first-generation students and providing special mentoring to help them thrive on campus, said Aaron Thompson, executive vice president and chief academic officer for the state Council on Postsecondary Education.

Also, a significant amount of need-based scholarships go to first-generation students, he said.

"Millions of dollars in our public universities are designed to help first-generation students and those that are in need to succeed," he said.

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