CUMBERLAND — County scholarship recipients shared their collegiate success stories during a meeting of the Allegany County Commission last week.

“This scholarship allows me to fulfill my potential at Frostburg State University," said Nick DeMichele, a junior at FSU. "This lightens my burden in a time where student debt is a frightening epidemic." 

The class of 2015 will be more in debt than any other graduating class to date, with an average student loan debt exceeding $35,000, according to Mark Kantrowitz, a nationally-recognized expert on student financial aid, scholarships and student loans.

Tuition continues to rise, forcing students to exhaust loan limits. This makes higher education more difficult to attain.

Abigail Kelley, an FSU sophomore, knows this all too well. “The number one thing keeping me from what I wanted to do was the price, and I don't think that's OK,” she said.

County commissioners established the Allegany County Opportunity Scholarship last year. It's funded by revenue generated from the Rocky Gap Casino Resort and available to county residents attending FSU or Allegany College of Maryland who have lived in the county for at least three years.

Since the scholarship program went into effect, about $400,000 in awards have made it into the hands of area students. The funds are administered by the nonprofit foundations at ACM and FSU.

The scholarship is expected to benefit at least 183 students in 2015-1016 school year. 

Commissioner Bill Valentine said he appreciates the thank you letters he receives from students and looks forward to hearing from all the recipients. 

“I do sit and read every one of those letters and I have an unbelievable folder in my office.”  

Follow staff writer Heather B. Wolford on Twitter @heatherbwolford.

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Managing Editor

John D. Smith is the Managing Editor of the Cumberland Times-News. He can be reached at jsmith@times-news.com.