Treasurer working to save Millennium Scholarship | NevadaAppeal.com
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Treasurer working to save Millennium Scholarship

The Millennium Scholarship won’t lose two years off its financial life as earlier reported if lawmakers adopt a proposal by Treasurer Kate Marshall.

Last Monday’s special session of the Nevada Legislature was told by fiscal staff that taking $5 million out of the Millennium Trust Fund would shorten the scholarship’s life by about two years to 2015.

But that calculation doesn’t take into account the $460,000 or so each year the treasurer’s office wants to give back to the scholarship fund ” money it has been collecting and using to cover administrative costs of the program. Marshall says that money can come, instead, from the College Savings Fund.

Legislative analysts didn’t include that funding change in their presentation because the law hasn’t yet been changed to implement it.

Over the next eight years, eliminating the administrative costs to the fund will replace most of the $5 million taken by the 25th special session to help balance this year’s state budget.

Mark Weinbarger of the treasurer’s office said that before the $5 million reduction, the Millennium Scholarship’s ending fund balance was a positive $523,399 at the end of fiscal year 2017. After taking the $5 million, he said, the fund is $2.7 short of meeting fiscal year 2017 needs.

But, he said, fiscal year 2016 is still projected to finish the school year $3.3 million in the black. While losing a year isn’t good, he said, it’s not two years.

Marshall said she is working on some changes that would increase the life of the Millennium Scholarship program beyond 2017.

The program provides funding to high school graduates who finish with at least a 3.25 grade point average, covering up to 12 credits a semester for four years of university classes. It also covers tuition costs for community college courses.

“The Millennium Scholarship is a great program that benefits the state, the state’s economy and the state’s future,” said Marshall. 

She said it has been an excellent program to enable many students who couldn’t afford college to get the education they need to succeed.

The program was created by Gov. Kenny Guinn and the 1999 Legislature, funded by tobacco settlement money. Since the 2000 school year, it has provided money to 47,723 students. A total of 8,711 were eligible in 2008 and 5,477 used the scholarship money. But that is just 63 percent of those eligible, far lower than the more than 80 percent who used for the first few years.

Marshall said a total of more than 14,000 degrees have been granted to students who received Millennium Scholarship money. Since it was created, $179.1 million has been distributed to pay class fees and tuition for students in the system of higher education.

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.