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Lack of funding casts doubt on future of popular Nevada scholarship

Updated March 20, 2017 - 4:54 pm

CARSON CITY — The popular Gov. Kenny Guinn Millennium Scholarship program is running out of money and may not be available for Nevada high school graduates in the years to come, lawmakers were told Monday.

Grant Hewitt, chief of staff to Treasurer Dan Schwartz, said a proposed $20 million one-time infusion of cash in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget would only continue the program through fiscal 2019. The treasurer’s office administers the program. It was reviewed Monday by the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

The Millennium Scholarship was established by the late Gov. Guinn in 1999. It was initially financed almost exclusively by tobacco settlement funds, but it has since been supplemented by the state and unclaimed property money as the number of participants has increased.

The scholarship is available to all Nevada high school graduates with a grade point average of 3.25 or better and can total $10,000 over a student’s college career. The program has no income eligibility requirements.

The tobacco revenue brings in about $15 million a year. In addition, the state Unclaimed Property Fund is required to contribute $7.6 million to the program each year.

But the program cost more than $30 million in fiscal 2016, while revenue totaled $23 million. In the second year of Sandoval’s proposed budget, the program is projected to cost $35 million, while revenue will total only $22 million.

A $10 million shortfall is projected for fiscal 2020, and a $27 million shortfall is projected for fiscal 2021.

Hewitt said that, without a permanent funding source, the scholarship will run out of money.

Lawmakers have the option of continuing to fund the scholarship with a one-time infusion of cash each legislative session.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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