CHEYENNE — Recipients of Wyoming's state-funded college scholarship will see an increase in their awards under a bill approved by the Legislature on Wednesday.
The bill provides a 5 percent increase in the Hathaway Scholarship awards to help make up for rising college tuition and fees. The scholarship award hasn't been increased since it was first started in 2006.
The measure now goes to Gov. Matt Mead.
The bill originally contained a 10 percent increase, which the House favored, but the Senate cut it in half.
Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, told House members Wednesday that the Senate wasn't about to compromise.
"It was either going to be the Senate position or zero," Harshman said. "So there's no splitting the baby halfway."
Under the Hathaway Scholarship program, Wyoming residents entering an in-state college can receive money to help pay their tuition. There are four levels of scholarship awards based on the student's academic performance.
The top scholarship, honors, provides $3,200 a year in aid, while the bottom scholarships pay out $1,600 a year. The scholarship cannot be used for out-of-state colleges.
However, while tuition and fees have increased every year, the scholarship award has remained the same, meaning the scholarship doesn't cover as much of the tuition and fees as before.
For example, the honors scholarship covered 91 percent of tuition and fees at the University of Wyoming in 2006-07. Now it covers 73 percent of those costs.
Opponents of the 10 percent increase are worried about whether the scholarship fund could sustain the increase in the long run.
"What we need to be looking at is not simply whether we can be funded in the next five to 10 years but where are we 50 to 100 years from now and looking to add corpus along the way if we're going to increase the scope of the program," Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, said.
Supporters of the legislation say some increase is better than none and they hope to look at more increases in the future.
Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the scholarship fund has a healthy $559 million balance and is continuing to grow.
"I think we'll look at it here in another couple of years and maybe do some more to try to catch up with the tuition increases," Coe said.