A scholarship that helps low- and middle-income students go to college is showing evidence that it's helping students do better after college than their parents have done.

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A relatively new state scholarship  designed to help low- and middle-income students move into promising careers appears to be breaking the cycle of poverty for many of its recipients.

The Opportunity Scholarship, funded with state and private money, has been awarded since 2012 to Washington students who are going into high-tech careers in science, technology, engineering, math and health care.

The College Success Foundation, a nonprofit that administers the program, recently finished a survey showing that 43 percent of graduates of the class of 2015 are earning between $40,000 and $60,000 a year after graduation, and 80 percent are earning more than $40,000 a year. That’s as much, or more, as the students’ average household income when they first applied for the scholarship.

In other words,  the scholarship winners are making as much or more as their parents made — and they’re reaching that level in their first year out of college.

“It’s life-changing for hundreds of students,” said Megan Nelson, manager of external affairs for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship. “That’s breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.”

The survey also showed that 80 percent of those who responded are either employed in their field of study, or are seeking a graduate degree.

Students eligible for the scholarship often are able to qualify for other financial aid, such as federal Pell grants or state financial aid. The extra money the Opportunity Scholarship provides often allows students to participate in research or internships, rather than having to work, Nelson said. That helps level the college playing field for low- and middle-income students.

In the past year, the scholarship has been boosted by private contributions, including $20 million from Woodinville investor Gary Rubens, an $11 million contribution from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, and $10 million from Microsoft.

Those private contributions allowed the College Success Foundation to award the scholarship to 1,450 students this year — 250 more students than received it last year. Nelson said 69 percent of the scholarship winners are the first in their families to go to college, and more than half are women. The median household income for those students is $39,000.