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2009 April 6 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Wyoming Changes Scholarship Program To Promote Flexibility

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed two bills into law that make the popular state-funded Hathaway Scholarship Program more flexible for graduating high school students.

Since 2006, the state has awarded the scholarships to Wyoming high school seniors who meet certain requirements and who attend the University of Wyoming or state community colleges or vocational schools.

House Bill 174 allows all scholarship-holders who attend community college or vocational school to transfer their scholarships to a four-year college or university in the state. Currently, some Hathaway scholarships don’t transfer with students who begin in one- or two-year program, then want to attain a four-year degree.

Sean Moore, a Hathaway Scholarship consultant at the Wyoming Department of Education, said the old rules “pigeonholed” some students who, for instance, wanted to earn an associate degree, followed by a four-year liberal arts degree.

“It just truly lets a student go in and do what they want to do,” Moore said.

The legislation allocates money for the administration of the scholarship program, including continued funding for a task force that will determine how American Sign Language courses should be taught in high schools.

Currently, ASL fulfills the foreign language requirement under Hathaway Scholarship rules, but the state has not written ASL teacher certification requirements.

The bill also includes funding for a program to introduce eighth-graders to the Hathaway Scholarship so they know the program’s high school curriculum requirements.

The minor changes are part of an effort to improve the relatively new program, said David Gruen, director of Student Financial Aid at the University of Wyoming.

“We’d just like to get it running right, so we’re glad there’s not an abundance of tweaks,” Gruen said.

There is $460 million in the scholarship program’s endowment, Gruen said. The endowment has suffered some loss in value during the global economic downturn, he said, which has stalled any plans to expand the program for now.

“If we were flush and if we were in good times, I think there would be some consideration for a Hathaway-type program that would be similar in nature for nontraditional students,” Gruen said. 

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