Bump in Opportunity Scholarships rejected


Staff And Wire Reports

A plan to add $250 a year to state-sponsored scholarships was rejected Jan. 29 by a South Dakota House committee after opponents said the extra spending would be hard to handle in a tight state budget.

Members of the State Affairs Committee also said they might be willing to boost the scholarship amount next year if more information is provided to show why such an increase is needed.

While student senators lobbied for the bill, there was no surprise at its failure, said Ryan Brunner, president of the South Dakota Students Federation. He hopes a similar bill will be proposed a year from now.

“It wasn’t a big surprise. It was something we hoped we could get approval for, but at the same time, it was important to start the conversation for next year,” he said.

The Opportunity Scholarships were started several years ago to encourage South Dakota’s best high school graduates to attend a college or technical school within the state. Eligible students get $1,000 in each of their first three years of school and $2,000 for their fourth year of college.

HB1142 would have added $250 a year to the scholarship.

The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Tom Hills, R-Spearfish, said adding money to the scholarships would help South Dakota compete with scholarships offered by surrounding states. If South Dakota’s best students attend college in the state, most will stay and work in South Dakota to help boost the economy, he said.

But opponents said the state does not have the additional $728,000 that would be needed to boost the scholarships by $250 a year.

At a Students’ Association meeting Jan. 29, Brunner said told senators there is a built-in $6 million deficit built in to Gov. Mike Rounds’ proposed budget. The bill’s death “was partially because of that funding deficit,” he said.