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State Lawmakers Consider Creating Needs-Based Scholarships In South Dakota

The Senate State Affairs Committee passed five hoghouse bills Friday morning, and one deals with assisting students in need. Before being amended, Senate Bill 237 was meant to establish a need-based scholarship program in the state, without any description of what it would entail or how it would be accomplished. The bill’s primary sponsor, Senator Russell Olson, proposed an amendment that is modeled after the federal LEAP Program, which provided grants for students in financial need. Olson says South Dakota is the only state without an established needs-based scholarship program.

“Quite frankly as a legislature, I think it’s important to pass legislation that doesn’t directly benefit us. You know, if I could quantum-leap back in time 25 years now to a freshman in college at USD, I can tell you that I would’ve not only qualified for this, but I could’ve used it for all four years I was in college. Senate Bill 237 as amended fulfills that South Dakota dream,” Olson says.

The bill as amended says institutions will match funding from the state 3 to 1. It also sets standards that students receiving the scholarships must maintain in order to be eligible. Other supporters of the legislation say it’s a good start to addressing the achievement gap between high and low income students. Senate Bill 237 now heads to the full Senate.