HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Students who were awarded a Montana STEM scholarship will have to find another way to pay their tuition this spring as the program that was to be funded by lottery proceeds doesn’t have enough money to pay the awards.
State education officials say the Montana Lottery did not generate enough revenue to sustain the scholarship program, which was created by the 2015 Legislature as an incentive for high school students to get degrees in postsecondary fields related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health care. The scholarship fund received an initial appropriation of $400,000 and was to receive money each year from the lottery.
Students who had been awarded scholarships for this spring have been notified that the program has been halted.
Tyler Trevor, a deputy commissioner, said that in June 2016, the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education believed it would receive $1.2 million from the lottery to fund the 2016-17 scholarships, and awarded scholarships based on that amount. However in July 2016, it learned the total funding for the year would only be $481,000.
Trevor said the department received only $120,000 from the lottery after an accounting error transferred the other $358,000 to the state’s general fund. The commission asked the House Appropriations Committee this week to transfer that money to the commissioner’s budget because it paid for most of the fall semester scholarships out of its operating budget.
In either case, there was not enough money for the promised spring scholarships.
In the fall of 2015, 400 students were awarded $1,000 scholarships - $500 for each semester. This fall, 250 of those students met the requirements to get a $2,000 scholarship for the 2016-17 school year but have since been told they won’t get their $1,000 for the spring semester.
Another 500 students were told this fall they would receive $500 scholarships for their freshman year in college, but there is not enough money to award the $250 they were to receive this spring.
Trevor said he believes the fund should be allowed to accumulate money for a time so the scholarship program is sustainable.
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