Jasmine Hall Wyoming Tribune Eagle Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — The Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to remove the $50 million endowment to the Tomorrow Scholarship Fund, even after it was previously approved by the Senate Education Committee.
Legislators made the decision in hopes of saving the bill for discussion among the Senate Committee of the Whole and finding a better way to fund the program.
Chairman and Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, assured members of the Education Committee he would bring follow-up amendments to address the funding, whether that be the full $50 million or a smaller amount.
He was supported by Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, who said he believed if the large appropriation was included in the bill before it was introduced, it wouldn’t fail. He wanted a fair discussion on the merits of creating the scholarship itself.
“So, we’re going to save you from yourself,” Perkins said.
Without the $50 million endowment up front, the program will have to wait. No scholarship could be awarded until the fund meets a minimum $50 million.
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The original language of the bill would appropriate dollars through earnings and investments and would take more than a few years to meet the goal.
The Wyoming’s Tomorrow Scholarship would be created through the passage of House Bill 31 in an effort to support nontraditional students. They would have the opportunity to receive up to $7,200 in assistance, with the main requirements being the student is 24 or older, residency for more than one year and agrees to register with the Department of Workforce Services for applicable training.
Unlike the Hathaway Scholarship, students who have been convicted of a crime could apply, as long as they were not incarcerated at the time they sought the financial assistance.
HB31 has been supported not only by the University of Wyoming and community colleges across the state, but by industry leaders.
Wyoming Association of Community College Trustees Executive Director Erin Taylor told senators this is because the scholarship also goes toward student workforce certification and growth efforts.
“We have a long list of industry supporters who are behind this, because a trained and skilled workforce is their primary need right now,” she said. “This is ranging anywhere from mining, to petroleum, to truck drivers, to nurses.”
The Senate Committee of the Whole will consider the bill in the coming days without the $50 million appropriation and debate if they want to fund the program from the start.