CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Education Interim Committee met Thursday to discuss two bills that would invest more money in statewide higher education scholarships.
The main bills introduced and amended in preparation for the 2022 budget session include those focused on increasing funds to the Hathaway Scholarship and the creation of a Higher Education Adult Scholarship.
The first piece of legislation that was drafted, but has not yet been approved, is the Hathaway Scholarship-Award increases and account transfers bill. If the committee agrees to sponsor it, and the full Legislature approves it, not only would it increase the amount of money students receive from the scholarship, it would also increase the amount going into the endowment fund.
The requirements to qualify for the scholarship would not change, and funds would increase across the board. The changes would go into effect on July 1, 2022.
Students with a minimum cumulative high school GPA of 2.5 and who meet certain testing requirements on a college entrance exam would receive $855, instead of $840, per semester for a minimum of 12 credits. Those with a higher GPA and test score would be awarded up to $1,765.
The committee also is considering modifying how funds are transferred within the account, as well as providing an effective new date for when the money moves into the student scholarship endowment fund.
There may also be opportunities for scholarship money to be awarded to students taking fewer credits or at a technical school.
Lisa Johnson, who spoke on the behalf of the Wyoming Association for Career and Technical Education, said she was interested in making the scholarship more accessible to those in apprenticeships and other trade programs.
“An electrician apprentice at Casper College is working and training for about 40 hours a week,” she said, “and then they’re taking five or six hours of college classes. They aren’t able to use the Hathaway Scholarship for those college classes, because it’s not considered full-time.”
The committee moved to table the discussion until next month and look at how these updates to the legislation might be most effective, especially as they relate to credit hours.
The other bill introduced to the committee would support students in Wyoming over the age of 24, who are also less traditional in their education journey. It’s called the Education-Wyoming’s Tomorrow Scholarship Program.
Besides age, qualifications would include being a U.S. citizen and having Wyoming residency for three years or longer, having no previous baccalaureate degree, filed for FAFSA and not being eligible for the Hathaway Scholarship.
Once the student is awarded the scholarship, they would receive up to $1,500 per academic term in financial support. This does not come without requirements though, some of which are that they would have to work in Wyoming or go to graduate school for at least one year after graduation, and all money awarded would have to be repaid with interest.
It is a bill that is the first of its kind, and committee members said is designed to invest in the future of Wyoming’s workforce. Many other members of the community also came forward to show their support for the bill and said it would give Wyoming residents a pathway to empower themselves.
Next month, the bill will be discussed again after the draft is cleaned up by volunteers from the committee, but many members seemed excited for its future.
“We have an enormous responsibility to future generations to get this right,” said Cindy Delancey, president of the Wyoming Business Alliance.