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Utah might end two popular scholarships that give millions to low income students

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY— Starting in 2021, Utah high school students may not be able to apply for the Regent’s and New Century Scholarships. Instead, the State Board of Regents (the Board) wants to redistribute $20 million in state funds to support a needs-based scholarship.

“Institutions are doing a really good job of rewarding students who are high academic achievers,” said Melanie Heath with the Utah System of Higher Education, “but they aren’t doing as good of a job of awarding students who just need a little bit of help and financial support in finding their way to college.

The Board wants the legislature to get rid of the Regent’s and New Century Scholarships and shift 70% of the remaining funds to the Utah Promise Scholarship.

The Board plans to give 30% of the $20 million from the Regent’s and New Century Scholarships directly to colleges for merit-based scholarships. The goal is to encourage more low-income students to go to college.

Every year about 4,000 students apply for the Regent’s and 400 apply for the New Century Scholarship.

The Regent’s Scholarship is open to students who take required classes, earn at least a 3.3 grade point average, and score at least a 22 on the ACT. But Heath said 90% of students who get the Regent’s Scholarship also receive academic scholarships from Universities.

For some students, this scholarship was cash on top of other merit based aid. Heath said there were also barriers for students during the application process.

She said the change isn’t likely to hurt students who would have qualified for the Regent’s Scholarship because they also receive institutional scholarships.

Heath said the New Century Scholarship — which rewards students for earning an associate’s degree in high school — is also flawed. Many students find their credits don’t transfer in college to cut down on time for their bachelor’s degree.

Heath says changing the scholarship programs gives low income students more options. “There are many students in Utah who are concerned about how they’re going to pay for college and without an opportunity to be given support…they might not go.”

The state legislature will decide whether to end the scholarships in the next legislative session.