Millennium scholarships doing the job

Consider it money well spent.

The Millennium Scholarship program, created by Gov. Kenny Guinn and the 1999 Nevada Legislature, was a good idea when it was proposed. It has simply gotten better as the results pour in.

The latest evidence comes from Jane Nichols, university system chancellor, at the Board of Regents meeting this week in Elko.

It has long been a goal to raise the number of Nevada high-school grads who go on to colleges and universities. The state historically ranked near the bottom, for several reasons.

It wasn't always that students weren't prepared for college or didn't meet the entry requirements, although that was part of the problem. Easy access to relatively good-paying jobs in Nevada's service industries also meant many teenagers believed they didn't need more than a high-school diploma to get what they wanted.

Nevertheless, the state's education leaders had managed to nudge the percentage of high-school grads going to college from a woeful 33 percent in 1992 to a still-not-sparkling 40 percent by 1998.

Then along came Millennium Scholarships, which use tobacco-settlement funds to pay for up to $10,000 of college education for any Nevada high-school graduate with a B average who goes to a Nevada college or university.

In just two years, the number shot from 40 percent to 49 percent. All they needed, it appears, was an incentive.

Some early critics of the Millennium Scholarship program noted it made no distinction between kids from wealthy families, who could afford to pay for college anyway, and those from poorer families who most needed the help.

But that's something we like about the program -- its democratic nature. The beauty of it is the lure to Nevada colleges. As Guinn pointed out at the time, it doesn't hurt to have wealthy families as alumnae when the foundation comes calling.

Keeping Nevada students in school through college. Keeping the best students in Nevada schools. When it comes to Millennium Scholarships, we haven't heard a better idea this century.


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