Head of ways and means says consider phase out of millennium scholarships

The chairman of the Nevada Legislature's Ways and Means Committee served notice Wednesday he may try to "phase out" the Millennium Scholarship program.

Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, said the program, which Treasurer Brian Krolicki has described as insolvent, "is like a fish out of water."

"I was very supportive of this in the beginning but I'm losing oxygen too," he said. "Don't be surprised if we ask you to present something to us to phase this out."

Arberry said he may call for turning the tobacco settlement money dedicated to Millennium Scholarships over to the university and community college system directly.

He said after the meeting that the university system could then direct that money to students who need financial aid just as they do with millions in other money available for scholarships, grants and loans.

Arberry said the program is in the red and he doesn't think the tobacco money funding it will last. He said it's time to do something completely different.

Krolicki said he would fight that move.

"I truly believe this is one of the most precious programs ever rolled out in Nevada," he said. "This is about Nevada's future, about an educated workforce."

All, however, agreed major changes are needed if the Millennium Scholarship program is to survive. Krolicki told the committee without changes, the scholarship program will need $45 million over the coming biennium.

He suggested three eligibility changes including cutting the number of credits the scholarship will fund from 15 to 12 each semester, not paying for summer classes and "tough love" -- which means students who lose the scholarship for any reason such as low grades would not be able to requalify.

Those, he said, would save about $12 million.

He said he and Gov. Kenny Guinn also support using $7 million a year from the unclaimed property revenues to support $100 million in bonds to keep the scholarship program solvent another 10 years.

But there seemed very little support for the bonding idea.

Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, said when the session began Monday that he opposed bonds when the state has a surplus that could be used for the scholarship program.

Vice Chairwoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, also made it clear she opposes bonding to fund the program as have several other members. And Arberry said simply "no way" when asked about the bond.

Even Republican leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, have said they don't like the idea of bonds to support the scholarship.

"Has anybody talked about endowing this program?" asked former Treasurer Bob Seale, now a Las Vegas Assemblyman.

Seale asked Krolicki to come up with some estimates how much money it would take to permanently endow a trust fund to support the Millennium Scholarship program.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or at 687-8750.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment