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State's Community College Grant Program Is Dream Come True for MCCC Student Jessica Bookholdt


"I am really excited for the spring semester,” grant recipient Jessica Bookholdt said.

West Windsor, N.J. – With the passage of the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) program, qualified students in New Jersey now have a debt-free pathway to their associate degree.

For Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Health Sciences/Radiography student Jessica Bookholdt of Hamilton, CCOG is a dream come true. She started at MCCC right out of high school in 2012 intent on studying theater. But she came to see theater as something that might be better pursued on the side and discontinued taking classes.

Bookholdt had bills to pay and rent to cover. While her goal was always to complete her degree, even while working full-time, she simply could not afford it.

Now, as a result of CCOG funding, Bookholdt will get the chance to use the “science and math side of her brain” that has always been her strong suit. At the age of 25, Bookholdt says, “I am certain of my path and ready to prove myself.”

Bookholdt’s decision to study radiography is both practical and highly emotional. “Deciding on radiography as a future career goes back to losing my father last January,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field. Originally I thought I would work in a lab. But my father had the most amazing team of doctors, nurses, radiographers, and technicians. They showed him love and care. They made us feel like the most important people in the world.”

She recalls that after her dad passed away, the medical team was concerned for her well-being. She told them, “Just do for everyone else what you’ve done for us. I decided right then and there that I want to be in a field where I could provide patients and their families with that level of support and care. I can’t wait to be in the field and give back in that way.”

Bookholdt learned about the Governor’s proposal when he visited MCCC last April.  “I got really excited that something amazing was happening in New Jersey, but I didn’t necessarily think it would apply to me. When I got the email from the Financial Aid office notifying me that I was approved, I was ecstatic,” she recalled.

What’s most important to Bookholdt is that she will be able to fully focus on her schoolwork and her future. And, having begun her studies at Mercer this fall with some insurance money she received following her father’s death, she had already completed the FAFSA and was automatically approved for CCOG funding.

“Two of the best emails I’ve ever gotten were the ones notifying me that my tuition would be completely covered,” she recalls. “I still can’t believe it.”

The timing for Bookholdt is bittersweet. She knew that the money from her dad would only go so far. “Getting this money from the state is a blessing,” she said. “I know my dad would be very glad.”

She advises other students to apply, even if they are not sure whether they are eligible. “The biggest mistake you could make is not to apply. It’s worth it if it helps you work towards your future.”

Mostly, Bookholdt is just plain grateful – to the state of New Jersey for helping people move toward their future, to Mercer for being a participant in the program, and to MCCC’s Health Professions faculty. “They are guiding me through this. I am really excited for the spring semester.”

New Jersey's new Community College Opportunity Grant program provides tuition funding for students whose household income does not exceed $45,000, and after all other federal, state, or institutional aid has been awarded. Students must be enrolled for at least six credits (two classes) and not have a prior college degree. For more information about eligibility criteria and the admissions process, click here or call 609-570-3795.

Community College Opportunity Grant at MCCC

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