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Hathaway scholarship criteria do not promise collegiate success

In "The Hunger Games," participants in a deadly competition were introduced to an area called the Cornucopia, which provided them with food, weapons, medicine and other supplies to coax them into open combat.

Much like those contestants, Wyoming students are being drawn to colleges by scholarship money but are finding it difficult to succeed once they have the aid.

Hathaway scholarships are designed to provide an incentive for Wyoming students to pursue postsecondary education within the state. The program consists of four separate merit scholarships, each with specific eligibility requirements, and a need-based scholarship for eligible students that would supplement the merit awards.

According to Hathawayscholarships.com, students are eligible to receive up to $1,600 a semester. Students must be recent Wyoming high school graduates and meet eligibility requirements such as a certain GPA and/or ACT/SAT scores.

Money received, degree unfinished

In a statistical report by Ann Murray, manager of institutional research at Laramie County Community College, in 2006, the first year the Hathaway scholarships were available, more than $120,000 was given to students who enrolled at LCCC. During that year, LCCC's retention rate overall, which is the number of students who begin at a college and continue the next year at the same college, was only 50 percent. Of the Hathaway recipients that year, the retention rate was 48 percent.

Although each of those numbers is low, the retention rate of Hathaway recipients increased greatly in 2007 and 2008. But, overall, LCCC's retention rate of the entire student body remained near 50 percent during those years.

A higher retention rate in those years, however, did not make for higher graduation rates. In 2008, LCCC had a graduation rate of only 13 percent. The number of Hathaway recipients that year was 81 individuals, and of those students, the graduation rate was 23 percent.

In 2006, of 58 Hathaway recipients, only seven completed a degree or certificate. The money that went toward those students' education at LCCC added to almost $30,000. But the 51 individuals who did not complete any type of education altogether came to nearly $94,000 in scholarship money. Of course, 2006 being the first year the scholarships were available, the number of recipients in 2007 and 2008 increased and also did the money utilized in effectively by students.

During those three years, the retention rate at LCCC for all students and for Hathaway students increased. The graduation rate during those years also increased but the total amount of money from Hathaway scholarships in the years 2006-2008 added to more than $570,000.

Of that money, only about 36 percent, or around $206,000, was used toward completing a full degree or certificate at LCCC. The amount of money wasted in Hathaway scholarships in those years was more than $364,000.

Ineffective use of funds

As referred to in the February issue of Wingspan, a report showed millions of dollars a year are wasted because of students who drop out within the first year of college.

Grant Wilson, interim vice president of student services at LCCC, said Hathaway scholarships were set up by the Legislature, so the money comes from the state of Wyoming's revenue. Therefore, the money given to these scholarship recipients comes from taxpayers' money.

Analyzing the figures of money in effectively utilized in the years 2006-2008, Wilson said, "I think most people will be frustrated by students who could make better use of the Hathaway dollars."

Wilson said he believed as a nation and as a state, and as well as LCCC individually, we need to do more to help students be successful at completing their college degrees.

He said some factors cannot be controlled, like when life first happens, but if students are struggling with their classes or finances, the institution could do more to provide some kind of help earlier before the struggle becomes a crisis.

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