Mancos scholarships total $413,818

Best year so far, excluding academies

After all the essays were submitted, and all the interviews completed, the Mancos graduating class had earned $413,818 in scholarships by the end of the year.

"It's pretty cool to see the kids' hard work pay off," said registrar Chrissie Miller

The 2014 class earned the most of any class, without having a military academy appointee in their midst. An appointment adds $400,000.

In 2011 and 2013, students earned more than $700,000 in scholarships, but both included a military academy appointee, Miller said.

This year, the students brought in a lot more county-wide scholarships than the school has before which made a difference, she said.

Before 2011, the school didn't have someone dedicated to scholarships, but since Miller was hired, she has started prepping students in their freshman year.

She also encourages them to be well-rounded by participating in community service, which is important on most applications.

She works with each student to come up with a career plan by their junior year and encourages students to work on every scholarship opportunity.

Her reasoning is simple: "If you don't apply, you're not going to get it."

One of her main goals is to help students make smart choices about matching a salary with the debt. She doesn't want a mountain of debt to change the course of their life.

Student debt is a growing problem. In March, the national average debt for a four-year college student was $26,000 to $29,000, The Associated Press reported.

It's easy get $80,000 to $100,000 in debt, said Miller, and tuition is rising about 4 percent a year.

She encourages students to apply for at least three schools that fall into three categories including, dream, reality and backup. Then she shows students how much debt they might incur at each school.

"We do everything in our power to help them go where they want," she said.