As federal student loan interest rates double and many colleges raise tuition, a local bank-affiliated foundation provides a little financial cushion to shore area students.

The Ocean First Foundation will be awarding 140 scholarships totaling $200-thousand dollars during a reception in Shrewsbury this Wednesday. Executive Director Kathy Durante says "it's really a fun night where we get to celebrate the students, share in their accomplishments. Each student gets recognized and introduced to lots of different key leaders within the college community." She says they also give them prizes and get them enthused about going to college.

Ocean First Scholarship Dinner Prizes, Ocean First Foundation

Durante says the foundation began the scholarship program three years ago as a way of helping students who wanted to transition from high school to post high school education opportunities. "The idea really was to give em a little bit of help to help them get in the door of college."

She says they provide $50-thousand dollars each to Brookdale Community College, Georgian Court University, Monmouth University and Ocean County Community College and the school's actually set up the criteria and select the award recipients. "So I mean there are some very basic criteria, that they have to be graduating from a high school within the Ocean First area, they have to live in our community and they have to have a minimum G-P-A of three-point-0.

According to Durante, the Ocean First Foundation was started in 1996 when Ocean First went public. She says the foundation focuses on meeting community needs in the areas of housing, youth development and education, improving health and wellness and the quality of life in our communities and has awarded over $24 (M) million dollars in grants to community organizations and educational institutions.