SD legislators considering need-based scholarshipsPIERRE — The possibility remains that the Legislature will create a new scholarship program this session.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — The possibility remains that the Legislature will create a new scholarship program this session.
It would be for South Dakota students who need financial help to attend classes at a university, college or technical institute.
A Senate committee kept the plan alive Friday for further consideration in the three weeks that lawmakers have left in their main run this year.
The senators stripped the $5 million sought for the plan and replaced it with $1 as a placeholder. That will allow legislators to get a better grasp of how much money is estimated to be available for all of the competing interests.
The proposal by Senate Republican leader Russ Olson of Wentworth calls for whatever amount the Legislature approves to be placed in a special part of the state’s education enhancement trust fund. Earnings up to 4 percent of the special account’s value would be applied annually toward need-based scholarships.
The campuses participating in the program would need to provide $3 of need-based aid for every $1 from the state account for a student.
The legislation, SB 237, will be debated by the full Senate in the coming week. Most likely it will be passed across to the House of Representatives as a courtesy while legislators await money decisions.
Jack Warner, executive director for South Dakota’s system of public universities, expressed “strong support” for Olson’s idea. Warner said South Dakota is the only state that doesn’t offer need-based scholarships.
Students from the top onequarter of income brackets are nine times more likely to graduate from college than are students from the bottom onequarter, according to Warner.
“It’s a pilot. It’s a first for South Dakota. It will be historic for us as a state,” Warner said.
Cost for an undergraduate student to attend two semesters at a state university is about $15,000 including tuition, fees, room, food and books, according to Warner.
He said the need-based aid could be in the range of $500 to $2,000 per student, depending on how much the Legislature makes available for the trust fund account.
Also speaking in support of the plan were Dick Tieszen, representing the four public technical institutes at Watertown, Mitchell, Rapid City and Sioux Falls, and officials from National American University.