HAMMOND | A record number of graduating high school students received a College Bound scholarship from the city last year, according to a report released Friday.
The city gave 183 students from the class of 2012 a scholarship, a 20 percent increase over the previous year's graduating class, the report states.
"We are right on target," said Tom Dabertin, consultant to the College Bound program. "We are seeing steady growth. We are seeing continued interest in it. The students and parents are extremely happy.
"We look at the sheer numbers of families we are reaching. We are reaching approximately 500 families a year now with the College Bound program, which is just tremendous."
College Bound, the scholarship program began under Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., also saw a record year in total participants in 2012, with 303 returning students receiving the scholarship for a total of 486 participants.
The program offers scholarships to students of Hammond homeowners as a strategy to increase homeownership in the city. The scholarship can cover up to four years of school if certain academic and community service requirements are met.
Hammond backs the scholarships with Horseshoe Casino funding. The maximum scholarship amount was increased to $10,100 per year last summer.
The report shows a majority of students who receive the scholarships attend local universities, with Purdue University Calumet drawing the highest percentage of College Bound attendees.
Last year, 169 College Bound students attended Purdue Calumet, comprising 34 percent of the program's participants, according to the report.
“Clearly it's been what we would consider a wonderful innovative resource and opportunity for students,” said Wes Lukoshus, Purdue University Calumet spokesman. “The program helps position them to go to school and learn and become successful, and by the same token, those students coming to our campus we take that very seriously. We relish in the role we play in educating them.”
Another local university, Calumet College of St. Joseph, has offered to make up the difference between the private college's tuition and the maximum scholarship College Bound offers.
“From a public policy perspective, it's just an absolute terrific initiative,” said Dan Lowery, president of Calumet College of St. Joseph.
"You have to think about what the mayor is trying to do here. He's trying to build his city. Homeownership is a part of that, but also an educated populace is a part of that. Building a strong middle class is a part of that. That's what this objective does on so many different levels.”