Millennium Scholarships are worth saving

Morse Arberry is right when he says some new thinking is needed with respect to Millennium Scholarships. He's wrong when he suggests phasing them out is the way to go.

The Las Vegas Democrat, chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, brought the Millennium Scholarship conundrum to a head on Wednesday when he said he may try to phase out the program, which pays for Nevada high school graduates with good grades to attend in-state universities and colleges.

The scholarship fund is beginning to run dry because, we must point out, the Legislature failed to act four years ago when state Treasurer Brian Krolicki recommended selling future tobacco-settlement proceeds for a lump-sum investment. A bill to do that, Senate Bill 488, was approved by the Senate but never made it out of - you guessed it - Assembly Ways and Means, chaired by Arberry.

Same result in 2003.

It was also Arberry who, last September, became miffed when Krolicki pointed out to university regents that the scholarship fund would be in better shape today if the Assembly had followed his advice years ago.

Dwindling tobacco-settlement funds isn't the only reason the scholarship fund is hurting. It's a victim of its own success, as more students are using it and college tuition is rising faster than expected. Nevertheless, the $100 million the fund needs now is close to the amount the state could have collected in interest if the lump sum had been invested.

To say Nevada should kill a program being used by more than 13,500 students is not only short-sighted, it looks like political retribution.

There are at least a dozen other options, from infusing more state funds to raising the eligibility requirements.

Millennium Scholarships are worth saving as an easily recognizable beacon for Nevada students to guide them toward a higher education. Lawmakers and Krolicki should be working together, and with educators, to craft a solution.


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