Possible Opportunity for scholarship

Brittany Westerberg

Brittany Westerberg

The South Dakota Legislature is looking at making changes to a scholarship program that might affect 1,166 students at SDSU.

The state is looking at making these changes to the Opportunity Scholarship program because of an increase in interest being earned on a trust fund, according to Governor Mike Rounds. The interest from this trust fund has to be spent on education.

The Board of Regents originally wanted to increase the amount scholarship recipients were already receiving. As of now, an Opportunity Scholarship recipient receives $5,000 over the course of four years of postsecondary education; they get $1,000 each year for three years and $2,000 their fourth year.

This increase was struck down in committee. Another part to their bill-Senate Bill 59, which is still in committee-is to decrease the amount of credit hours Opportunity Scholarship recipients have to take each semester.

In order to qualify as an Opportunity Scholarship recipient, a student must be a resident of South Dakota and attend a university, college or technical school located in South Dakota. They must also have an ACT composite score of 24 or higher, have a cumulative high school GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale and complete high school course requirements commonly known as the Regents Scholar curriculum.

In order to maintain eligibility, a student must complete consecutive spring and fall academic terms, complete a minimum of 15 credit hours of instruction per term and maintain a cumulative 3.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale.

SB 59 would decrease the number of credit hours a student was required to take from 15 to 12, the federal definition of a full-time student. This would help students in majors whose department tells them to take only 12 because of the difficulty, such as pharmacy.

Gov. Rounds did not think an increase in the amount current recipients receive as the best use of this money. The bill he put forward-SB 201-would lower the required ACT composite score of 24 to 23, or-if a student took the SAT-a verbal-mathematics score of 1070-1100 to 1060 or higher.

In a press conference at the legislature on Jan. 24, Rounds stressed the need to improve higher education. “[The state has] about $1 million more in interest coming in,” he said. If the ACT requirement is lowered, Rounds estimates that about 200 more students could receive scholarships.

The Opportunity Scholarship was originally created to encourage high school students to master difficult curriculum to prepare them for college and then attend a higher education facility within South Dakota, according to the Board of Regents Web site. When it began in 2004, Rounds called it “a great day for South Dakota.”

“This guaranteed scholarship offers significant financial incentives to students who take a set of demanding courses in high school and stay in-state for college,” he said at the time. “If we keep our talented young people in South Dakota, it can only enhance long-term economic development.”

SB 201 would also change the required credit hours from 15 each semester to “at least 15 ? in six out of eight semesters. The student shall complete at least 12 credit hours of instruction in two out of eight semesters.” The senate bill also adds the sentence: “The requirement to enroll in at least fifteen credit hours ? does not apply to a student who has earned sufficient credits towards graduation such that fewer than 15 credit hours are required for the student to meet graduation requirements.”

A Senate committee voted unanimously-7-0-to approve the bill on Jan. 29. It will now go to the Senate floor for a vote.

For more information on these bills or other legislation being considered, visit http://legis.state.sd.us/