Posted at 3:00 p.m., March 11, 2015

Bill's passage modifies Hathaway Scholarships

At this year’s budget session, the Wyoming Legislature worked on four bills concerning eligibility and requirements for Hathaway Scholarships but only one passed.

The first three, which were either not introduced prior to cutoff or failed, supported specific modifications for Hathaway requirements that the Legislature sees every year. Republican Rep. Hans Hunt, of Niobrara/Weston/Goshen counties, said the Legislature does “something to manipulate the Hathaway almost every session, and new ideas are always coming and going.”

Communications Director Coleen Haines of the Wyoming Education Association also agreed on Hathaway’s importance in the Legislature. “We would have liked to see them all pass,” she said. “They will come up again because they are issues that need to be addressed.”

GPA major modification

Grade point averaging was the first major modification to Hathaway. Originally based only on a 4.0 scale, House Bill 190 proposed that the measurement of academic rigor of high school courses would also be included. The drop in tiers made the Legislature vote against it as Rep. Hunt said that to make it too broad would drain the bill itself.

Other bills, House Bill 191 concerning semester-hour requirements and House Bill 192, which was supported by the WEA, on the ability to petition the increase of the scholarship award, were shot down this year.

HB 191 would require a student carry 15 instead of 12 credit hours a semester.

The general consensus was a majority of college students would be unable to keep up with 15 hours of schooling because most have other responsibilities such as work.

The petition concept of HB 192 involved when a student maintained a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 for two consecutive semesters, he would be eligible for more Hathaway money.

“Students should be able to petition for higher level scholarship eligibility,” Haines said. “If students are proving themselves, we believe they should be able to petition to receive the higher level.”

Good cause for eligibility

On the other hand, the last bill, House Bill 231, which was signed by the governor and will be effective July 1, concerned additional “good cause” reasons for allowing eligibility of the Hathaway Scholarships to an individual prior to his graduation date. For the bill to pass, the Legislature brought into play a criteria that was to account for what made and didn’t make a “good cause” reason.

“The main argument was ‘how wide open are we going to make this for recipients and applicants,’” Rep. Hunt said. “If you get too many people dipping into the system, then the fund will not be able to self-sustain itself, so it is just a basic matter of opinion…it’s what your priority concerns are for earning one way or another.”

Other concerns that Hunt proposed were as follows: “Are we going to open it to anybody who dropped out of school? Are we going to require or how long would we require a GED? At what point are we going to stop opening the door wider for the whole world to take advantage of it whether they were deserving of it or not?”

Hathaway Scholarships self-sustaining

Beginning in 2005 for distribution for the 2006 graduating class, approximately $125 million was put aside for the Hathaway Scholarships, which do not need any additional extra funding at the moment.

“[The fund] has been able to sustain itself so whatever you’re paying out to add scholarship funds, the growth of interest has outweighed the payout, so at this time there is no need to get additional funding for it, and it’s only a general concern that is well founded because at some point you’re going to stop having the conversation of how many people are you going to bring into the fold,” he explained.

A permanent change

Yet Haines was happy with the resulting passing of HB 231. “This gives [students] a way to get them their education so they are not stuck in a career that doesn’t offer them opportunities,” she said.

Like Haines, Rep. Hunt hoped to achieve that; through allowing financial incentive, individuals will take an opportunity that others may not have.

“It is permanent…and for a particular issue for a particular group of people the chance of change will not take place until someone decides to manipulate it, which they may not do,” he said. “I think it’s giving a hand up to individuals who want to go to college to get a degree and better themselves and be able to complete something they otherwise would not be able to afford.”

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