Fort Hays State University officials announced Friday the college is included in a generous statewide scholarship program offered by the Wichita-based Rudd Foundation.

The Rudd scholarship is offered to Kansas students who are eligible for Pell Grants, with preference given to first-generation or under-represented students. Scholarship recipients can choose to attend FHSU, Wichita State University or Emporia State University.

“The scholarship aspires to help keep the best and brightest minds right here in Kansas, especially after they graduate from our program,” Peter Najera, president of the Rudd Foundation, said during a press conference Friday morning. “We really want them to go out and build new businesses here, teach in our schools, lead in our communities, raise their families and achieve excellence in everything they do right here in Kansas.”

The foundation plans to select up to 20 scholars in this year’s application process, which is available online and ends at midnight March 11. For selected students, the foundation will cover all remaining costs of tuition, books, and room and board after grants and other scholarships are applied.

The Rudd Foundation also will work with students throughout their education to create networking and enrichment experiences within their chosen career paths. The scholarship is not specific to certain areas of study.

Scholars will be expected to perform well academically and maintain a grade-point average of at least 3.0. They also will be expected to graduate within four years.

“The program is firmly rooted in the Midwestern values of grit, determination, work ethic, humility and integrity,” Najera said. “Those traits that we believe make this state great, and the people great. With those character traits in mind, we are really searching for some go-getters in the next generation.”

FHSU was added to the scholarship program in part because the foundation heard from several companies in the Wichita area who spoke highly of the Fort Hays graduates they had hired.

The foundation was established by Leslie Rudd in 1998 with a mission to help “those who help themselves in making an impact and achieving their goals.”

FHSU President Tisa Mason — a first-generation college graduate — said that mission is congruent with the goals of Fort Hays as an institution.

“I know that recruiting first-generation students in particular is important to Kansas and certainly, as you all know, that is very parallel to my journey as a first-generation student,” she said Friday. “It sends a very important message of the importance of an advanced education, which without a doubt is a life-changer and a transformative experience for everyone who’s been able to go to college.”