By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: State officials said today they are pleased that Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed continuing the Guinn Millennium Scholarship program in his budget, including a one-time infusion of $10 million from the general fund to keep it solvent through 2016.
“I was pleased to see that,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, in a budget hearing today.
Sandoval received a standing ovation during his State of the State speech Monday when he said the scholarship, named after the late Gov. Kenny Guinn, is continued in his budget. The program has been in jeopardy because of budget cuts and revenue shortfalls. Guinn established the scholarship during his first term as governor.
The Legislature must still approve the funding when the 2011 session convenes Feb. 7.
State Treasurer Kate Marshall, whose office manages the scholarship funds, also expressed appreciation to Sandoval for his support of the program.
In addition to the $10 million general fund contribution, the scholarship will continue to receive funding from Nevada’s tobacco settlement agreement, as well as a $7.6 million transfer each year from the treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division.
The decision to continue the scholarship, “is a welcome message to students and parents across the state of Nevada,” Marshall said. “My office continues to receive many inquiries about the future of the Gov. Guinn Millennium Scholarship program from students, parents, and high school counselors concerned about the opportunity to utilize the program’s benefits in upcoming years.”
The program has been used by more than 60,000 Nevada high school graduates who have met the eligibility criteria. Currently, there are approximately 21,000 students receiving millennium scholarship benefits. Since its inception, over 22,000 millennium scholars have earned a degree from a Nevada institution of higher learning.
The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee infused the scholarship with College Savings Plans program funds last year to keep it solvent through this school year, but its future was in doubt due in part to lower amounts of funding coming from the tobacco settlement agreement. The annual tobacco payment to Nevada is declining mostly because people are smoking less.
The scholarship currently provides around $25 million per year to Nevada high school graduates who attend a Nevada institution of higher learning. Initial eligibility requirements include graduating from a Nevada high school with a minimum 3.25 grade point average.
About 8,000 high school graduates per year are eligible to receive a millennium scholarship, of which about 60 percent choose to activate their award.
The Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) says the scholarship covers about 56 percent of a student’s tuition costs at a Nevada university.