Utah Regents’ Scholarship needs $500K to keep pace with growth
Higher education • Increasing number of applicants are qualifying for merit-based aid.
Published: November 17, 2012 11:43AM
Updated: November 18, 2012 12:38AM

The popularity of the Regents’ Scholarship program continues to climb, with officials reporting the number of students receiving this merit-based aid growing by more than one-third this year.

Now in its fourth year, the program gives Utah high schoolers a financial incentive to prepare for college with the promise — subject to funding from the Legislature — of $1,000 or more if they complete a rigorous course of study with a B average.

This year 1,354 students qualified for the scholarship, with another 378 qualifying for its sister program, the New Century Scholarship, which rewards students who graduate from high school with an associate’s degree, according to a report presented Friday to the state Board of Regents.

“This is where we want to be. This is about enhancing the high school experience and propelling them into higher education,” said Melissa Kincart, an assistant commissioner of higher education. “We are seeing these students retained at a higher level” between their freshman and sophomore years in college.

The data also indicate the share of applicants who qualify for the Regents’ Scholarships continues to increase, as does the share of qualifiers who win the scholarship’s “exemplary” $5,000 award, reserved for those with a 3.5 GPA and ACT score of 26.

This year 70 percent qualified for the bigger award, which puts greater, although welcomed pressure on the program’s funding. Meanwhile, only 13 percent of qualifiers received the program’s college-savings match of up to $400.

The Regents expect to ask the Legislature for a $500,000 bump in funding to support past and anticipated growth, according to Kincart.

This year’s appropriation, about $2.7 million, was not sufficient to fully fund those qualifying for the Regents’ exemplary award, forcing officials to cut the per-semester payment from $1,250 to $900.

These scholarships must be used at a Utah college or university, including Westminster College and Brigham Young University. The largest share of recipients head to the LDS Church-owned school.

bmaffly@sltrib.com