Wyoming’s Tomorrow’s Scholarship Bill was signed into law by Gov. Mark Gordon after passing the House on March 10, with $10 million earmarked for the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account endowment fund. (LSRA).
The scholarship will allow non-traditional students over the age of 24 to receive up to $7,200 per year for four full academic terms at a Wyoming school.
However, the money will not flow to students until the endowment fund reaches $50 million.
“We hope that the legislature as well as the private sector will be able to find funds so that they can continue to build the endowment to reach that $50 million threshold where the scholarships can be awarded. said Cindy DeLancey, president of the Wyoming Business Alliance (WBA).
“We won’t be able to really see any impact or results from the work of the Legislature until the endowment is funded to the level to award scholarships.”
The bill allows donations to contribute to the endowment, including those from state businesses and industries.
“[WBA] works closely with the legislature, but there needs to be more than one solution on how to fund the endowment,” DeLancey said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm in the industry, and several private companies are looking for a way to contribute to staffing.
In addition to the University of Wyoming and community colleges across the state, scholarship funds may be used for approved non-credit degrees through the Wyoming Works Program, a state grant program for adults seeking to improve their skills.
Rep. Mike Greear spoke on the house floor March 10 in support of the program and the scholarship endowment.
“The Senate amendment implementing trade schools and certificates is really, really good and brings us closer to what I envisioned for the future for us,” Greear said. “Life gets in your way, and you can’t always just close your doors and go to school and get that certificate, that degree to better your lot in life.”
Wyoming Community Colleges Executive Director Sandra Caldwell stressed the importance of providing more opportunities for mature students.
“We really don’t have anything in our state for our adult learners and we have a disproportionate population of adults without a post-secondary degree,” Caldwell said. “The challenge is that people find it harder to adapt to economic changes, especially ones that happen very quickly.”
Caldwell emphasized the importance of collaboration between Wyoming business and industry and institutions of higher education.
“Having that connection to business and industry is so critical and that’s why business and industry have aligned to support this bill,” Caldwell said. “It’s just very powerful in recognizing how much it takes education, business and industry to work together to create a long-term vision for the state.”
DeLancey said the bill would help the next generation of workers and help Wyoming move forward.
“Creating opportunity for our next generation of workers is truly an important priority for all businesses in Wyoming, and having the opportunity to do so through this legislation is truly a game-changer,” DeLancey said.