Last year, North County High School in Glen Burnie received $1.7 million in college scholarship offers for graduating seniors, a figure that would draw kudos throughout much of the country but not as much in Anne Arundel County, which is fast becoming known for its students' penchant for garnering financial aid funds that would rival the Maryland Lottery.
North County's sum was last among the county's 12 high schools, and less than half that of 11th-place Southern High. The school also finished last in 2009 and had never received more than $2.1 million for scholarships in a single year.
That changed this year, as a concerted effort by students, faculty and the Glen Burnie community helped North County get $7.1 million in scholarship offers, more than four times what it raised last year and second only to Severna Park in the highest increase in scholarship offer amounts since last year.
The figure also moved North County up to seventh place among county schools' scholarship offers during a year when school officials boast that Anne Arundel seniors collected a record $99.6 million, a 53 percent increase from last year's $64.9 million.
North County senior Joey Landgraf collected more than $100,000 in scholarship offers from various colleges. He received $12,200 from the University of Maryland, College Park, which he will attend.
"We're doing pretty good," said Landgraf, who added that the school system began preparing students for college, and its costs, as early as middle school. During junior year ,when students began applying to schools, North County teachers and staff put them through such rigors as mock interviews and resume drafting.
South River posted $12.9 million in scholarship offers, the highest amount for the third straight year. Severna Park was second with $12.85 million, followed by Arundel ($10.7 million), Broadneck ($10.68 million), and Old Mill ($9.1 million). Those four schools collected more money this year than all 12 combined in 2007.
Only Chesapeake, which posted $4.86 million this year, saw less than last year's amount.
The scholarship offers come at a time when many families are struggling to pay for college during the nation's economic crisis. Indeed, Anne Arundel school officials said that this year, 11 percent of seniors who reported post-secondary plans said that they would enlist in the military, more than double the percentage of any of the previous four years. The report also indicated that 81 percent of seniors plan to attend a two- or four-year college.
At North County, the $7.1 million was the result of an effort launched last year, and it was culminated during a seniors award ceremony in May, when students were individually honored for the amounts they had collected.
"Our goal was to increase [offers] by at least $2 million; I believe we were shooting for $5 million," said North County Principal William Heiser. "It's hard to tell given the class of students and the number of scholarships available, how competitive it's going to be. But the one thing you do have control over is the number of students you have contact with.
"We really set a very clear standard that we would work with every single senior to maximize their potential and get as many scholarships as they could," Heiser added. "All students completed applications for scholarships, not just the top of the class."
Landgraf said he got his funding from many sources, including scholarships from state delegates and one from his elementary school. He said that he will still need to work to cover all expenses at College Park. But the scholarship offers mean that he and his family need not worry about how he will fund his education.
"They were very happy about it, especially in these times," Landgraf said about his family. "Now I can be calm before the next storm."