CARSON CITY — Nevada’s Millennium Scholarship doesn’t go nearly as far these days as it once did to help eligible high school students attend college, education officials told state legislators.
When the program began in 2000, the $2,400 scholarship covered a student’s annual in-state tuition and fees, Crystal Abba, vice chancellor at the Nevada System of Higher Education, told members of the Legislature’s Interim Education Committee. Today, the funds pay only $1,920, or 29 percent of the $6,954 annual tuition and other fees.
“It was a significant scholarship 13 years ago,” Abba said. “Now it doesn’t resonate with students.”
Abba said legislators could make the scholarship more attractive to students by increasing what it pays per college credit, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. When the scholarship began, state universities charged $80 per credit. Credits now cost $171 each.
No member of the committee responded to Abba’s suggestion.
With the state in recession, legislators over the last two sessions have reduced funding for higher education and have had to find funds to keep the Millennium Scholarship solvent. Gov. Brian Sandoval has vowed not to make any additional cuts to education in 2013.
Abba said 77 percent of eligible students used their scholarships in 2000. But in 2011, with college costs much higher, the rate dropped to 51 percent. Students qualify for the scholarship if they receive at least a 3.25 percent grade-point average in a Nevada high school.
Former Gov. Kenny Guinn launched the scholarship as a way to help keep the brightest high school graduates in Nevada for college.
In response to questions from legislators, Abba and Chancellor Dan Klaich said the top graduating scholars are no longer as likely to remain in Nevada for college.
Abba said more than 15,000 students who used the scholarship have received bachelor’s degrees and that they are more likely to remain in colleges and graduate than students who don’t earn the scholarship.
Steve George, the chief of staff in the state treasurer’s office, said there are enough funds available to keep the scholarship at current funding levels for several more years. He noted that $271 million has been spent on them since the program’s inception.
Funds come from a share of a settlement Nevada receives from the tobacco industry for tobacco-related illnesses and from unclaimed property funds.