1000 E. University Ave
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: 307 766-4286
Fax: 307 766-2606
The State of Wyoming recognizes the continually increasing value of a highly educated work force. Aside from the obvious personal economic benefits, there are far reaching societal implications related to economic development and diversity.
The Fifty-Eighth Wyoming Legislature has paid a good deal of attention to the issue of college participation in Wyoming. Currently, 52% of Wyoming high school graduates enter college immediately after graduation. This figure is below the national average of 56% and well below top performing states where the number is around 67%. In an effort to make postsecondary education more attractive for Wyoming citizens, the Legislature passed Senate File 122 in the 2005 General Session. A component of that legislation established the Hathaway scholarship endowment account to provide funds to "make undergraduate postsecondary education in Wyoming as free as possible to Wyoming high school graduates."
Senate File 122 also established an "Education Merit Scholarship Committee" consisting of legislators; representatives of business, higher education, and Wyoming K-12 education; and one representative of the public. The goal of the committee is to make recommendations to the Wyoming legislature for future legislation, to be known as the Hathaway scholarship program. Although no specific legislation has been crafted to date, it is useful to outline some of the key facets of the Hathaway program.
One of the charges of the scholarship committee is to determine the amount of tuition, fees, and other education related payments that can be sustained from anticipated earnings from the student scholarship endowment. There are multiple variables affecting this calculation including the proposed dollar amount of the scholarship, the length a student can retain the scholarship, and an estimate of the number of students qualifying and choosing to use the scholarship.
Funds derived from federal mineral royalties will flow into the Hathaway scholarship endowment until the account balance reaches $400 million. Oversimplified, 79% of one-third of the federal mineral royalties received by the State in excess of $200 million in any fiscal year will be deposited to the scholarship account. Currently, the projected amount flowing to the scholarship for the fiscal year biennium ending FY06 is $85 million.
An implementation date for the program shall be no later than the first school year after the scholarship endowment account contains at least $400 million. The legislature may choose an earlier start-date by direct funding of the program.
The Hathaway scholarship is intended to make higher education affordable for Wyoming residents. There are a host of unanswered questions regarding general qualifications including definitions of residency, traditional (recent high school graduates) versus nontraditional students, part-time students, waivers for military service, etc.
Senate File 122 created the Education Merit Scholarship Committee. There is no question that the Hathaway bill will contain merit provisions to qualify for the scholarship. Merit criteria for initial qualification may include high school grade-point-average (GPA), standardized tests scores such as the ACT or Wyoming PAWS, and/or completion of a rigorous core curriculum. The committee will also provide recommendations for merit criteria to qualify for continuation of awards while in college. Such criteria may include meeting academic progress requirements, college GPA, etc.
The committee has been given the leeway to explore need-based criteria as part of the financial aid package.
The committee shall report its initial findings to the Governor and the Joint Appropriations and Joint Education Interim Committees by November 1, 2005. If the committee determines modifications to its initial findings and recommendations are appropriate, a second report shall be filed by November 1, 2006.