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Legislators mull Hathaway changes

LARAMIE — Legislators on the Joint Education Committee are considering a few bills that, if they find favor in the statehouse next year, would make changes to the Hathaway Scholarship Program.

On Thursday, lawmakers voted unanimously to have the Legislative Service Office draft a bill that would limit the amount of Hathaway funds that can be used for graduate school at the University of Wyoming.

In the 2017-18 school year, there were 70 students who used $270,000 worth of Hathaway’s need-based funds to pay for graduate school.

The amount of need-based funding used for graduate school is rapidly increasing, LSO staff said, and is likely to be higher in the 2018-2019.

Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said that when the statute on Hathaway funds was amended in 2007 to allow it to be used for grad school, the Legislature “probably didn’t want to pay for law school in its entirely.”

Under the bill LSO staff will draft for the education committee’s next meeting, Hathaway funds could only be used for grad school when paying directly for tuition and fees.

Under current statute, Hathaway funds can be used to pay for anything involving the “cost of attendance,” which includes books, room and board, travel and other expenses.

Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, said he’d like to see Hathaway limited even more than the bill the education committee voted for Thursday.

Brown said the “solvency of this (Hathaway) account is kind of in dire straits unless we handle this.”

Since tuition for graduate school at UW is often much higher than undergraduate tuition, Brown said he feels uncomfortable with how much need-based funding an individual grad student is eligible to use.

In the last four years, the number of UW students using Hathaway need-based scholarships for grad school has doubled.

At the education committee’s November meeting, legislators also plan to vote whether they’ll resurrect 2019’s failed House Bill 254, which would allow students to petition for an increase of their Hathaway scholarship if the student maintains a 3.75 GPA for two consecutive semesters.

Based on a simplified estimate, in which the LSO assumed all Wyoming college students meeting the GPA requirement would get an increase, a legislative memo indicated the bill could cost up to $3.6 million each fiscal year.

That bill was individually sponsored by Rep. John Freeman, D-Green River, in the 2019 legislative session. However, it failed on a 16-43 vote in the House.

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