COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa. (KMTV) — The Pottawattamie Promise is a scholarship that helps students get their associate's degree at Iowa Western Community College. Students thought they were set until an email changed their course of action.
For many Council Bluffs metro students, Pottawattamie Promise is their ticket to a better life.
"I'm a first-generation college student so my parents didn't attend college, I'm the first child in my family to go to college," scholarship recipient Jessica Castro said.
Kenya Paramo said the scholarship means everything.
"It would take a lot more than my parents, they would have to work way more and I feel like I would have to have a full-time job to maintain and stay at Iowa Western for two years," Paramo said.
The scholarship is valued at more than $8,000 per student per year, covering their tuition and book payments. But students were told housing would almost certainly get covered.
"They did tell us that it wasn't part of the scholarship, they made it sound so easy," said Paramo.
This week, students got an email saying housing is not part of the program — except in very limited circumstances — so their requests to live on-campus would be denied. It threw students off-course.
"It would have been a new, fresh start and it would have helped because a lot of the homes we're coming out of are distracting or there's like little siblings," scholarship recipient Laura Tague said.
Castro said she's worried about commuting to class.
"I'm especially a little bit more angry because my car just recently got stolen, so this was before I knew I got denied. My plan was once they tell us, 'We're approved,' I can walk to class while living on campus. I don't have enough money to buy a new car right now," Castro said.
After a challenging year, incoming students said they'll have to pivot once again.
"We felt like we had nothing to worry about because we were told we had nothing to worry about and now we're all kind of worried," Tague said.
3 News Now reached out to Iowa Western for the below statement:
"Good afternoon. The Pottawattamie Promise Program is a significant scholarship program that helps area students completely fund tuition and book payments during their pursuit of an associate's degree at Iowa Western. The program is funded through the generosity of the Iowa West Foundation.
We understand that this has been a difficult year for students, and the misunderstanding about housing is unfortunate. Housing is no longer part of the Pottawattamie Promise scholarship. That decision was made in order to expand the opportunity to more students. Through the generosity of the Iowa West Foundation, more than 700 students from six area high schools have been awarded the scholarship since 2015. It covers 100% of tuition, fees, and books, and is valued at more than $8,000 per student, per year.
Vice President of Marketing/Public Relations/Information Technology"