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With the cost of college rising and government aid for higher education waning, many high school students are exploring colleges in their region. Those looking for affordable college opportunities may be pleasantly surprised to find that location matters—not only at state schools and community colleges, but at some private liberal arts colleges.

Since 2006, Bard College at Simon’s Rock has helped make an early college education more affordable to its tri-state neighbors through the college’s Berkshire Regional Scholarship program. The scholarship amounts to a whopping 40 percent tuition discount, which translates to more than $15,000 for eligible students, each academic year.

Established during the college’s 40th anniversary celebrations, the scholarship was a way that Bard College at Simon’s Rock was able to tangibly demonstrate its gratitude to the surrounding communities who supported the campus for four decades. As the college broadened its national reputation as a leader in the early college landscape, Simon’s Rock recognized the need to give back to its regional neighbors. “The Berkshire Regional Scholarship,” Leslie Davidson, dean of admission and student affairs explained, “ensures that this distinctive opportunity remains accessible to qualifying regional students.”

While the majority of students who take advantage of the BRS are Berkshire County residents, the scholarship has the potential for greater reach. The BRS is open to residents in four states and fourteen counties. They include Massachusetts residents of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties; Connecticut residents of Hartford and Litchfield counties; New Yorkers in Albany, Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Rensselaer, and Ulster counties; and Vermont residents of Bennington and Windham counties. In addition to residence, students must demonstrate a strong academic record, be 19 years old or younger, and have completed at least the tenth grade or its equivalent.

To date, the college has awarded the scholarship to 81 students, 69 of whom have enrolled. About half of those students commute to campus, which is estimated to save an additional $11,000. Furthermore, students who enter through the BRS remain eligible for federal and state aid, as well as need-based institutional aid. Combined, this gives regional students a significant leg up, and for some makes covering the full cost of attendance possible.

The deadline to apply for admission through the BRS program is May 31, 2009. To remain eligible for the Berkshire Regional Scholarship, a student must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.7 at the end of each year at Simon’s Rock.