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May 26, 2022

Bryce Blaney, a graduating senior at Paint Valley High School, says that a voicemail left by a college admissions associate at Shawnee State University changed his life.

students walking on campus
Many graduating high school seniors are finding that college is possible through increased scholarships and a free-tuition program at Shawnee State University. Shown, first-time students who will begin this fall at Shawnee are welcomed during SSU’s New Student Orientation.

“I checked my phone during a track meet,” he said. “I froze. My heart was pounding. I had to sit down. I couldn’t believe what I heard.”

Blaney learned that he qualified for free tuition at Shawnee State, part of a new program for qualifying students from Scioto, Pike, Lawrence, Adams, Jackson and Ross counties in Ohio, and Boyd, Greenup and Lewis counties in Kentucky.

“I’ve been all over the college decision this year,” Blaney said. “I want to become a teacher, so I knew I would go to college. I also knew I would have to pay for it myself and that it was going to be tough. Getting that call changed everything.”

Like Blaney, hundreds of students throughout the region are graduating from high school this spring and making plans for their future. For most, college affordability is a concern, and a possible barrier. According to SSU President Jeff Bauer, Shawnee State University is making college possible for these students.

“Making a high-quality college education accessible and affordable is what Shawnee State has always been about,” Bauer said. “To further help students and families, we’ve expanded scholarships, offer a tuition guarantee that locks in a student’s tuition for four years, and started the new free-tuition program for qualifying students in our region.”

These programs are making a difference.

“I screamed on the phone when I learned that I qualified for free tuition,” Emma Sharp, a graduate from Ashland, KY, said. “I can’t even explain in words how excited I was.”

Sharp had applied to five different colleges. The news about SSU’s free tuition made her decision to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Shawnee.

“My biggest worry about college was taking on a bunch of debt,” she said, “so being able to finish my degree without any debt is amazing. It makes me feel like all my hard work in school has paid off. I’m so excited to become a Shawnee student and follow in my older sister’s footsteps, as she also went to Shawnee.”

Like Sharp, Abigail Boland, a graduate from Portsmouth West High School, said that the news that she qualified for free tuition at Shawnee State changed everything.

“I had committed to playing softball at another university,” Boland said. “When I heard about the free tuition program and knew I wouldn’t have to take out student loans, I talked to my coach and she connected me with Shawnee State. This means a lot to me.”

Boland plans to pursue an early childhood education degree while playing softball for the Shawnee State Bears.

“I’m excited about playing at Shawnee and I’m ready for the college atmosphere,” Boland said. “I like that Shawnee’s close to home and that I can build some flexibility into my schedule.”

Information about Shawnee State’s free tuition program may be found online at