A top Republican leader in the South Dakota Legislature will propose a need-based scholarship for South Dakota college students, making South Dakota the last state in the country to create one.
Sen. Russell Olson, the majority leader in the South Dakota Senate, said details about the size and funding for the program are still pending. But he predicted the bill would have “universal bipartisan support.”
The scholarship would help pay for needy students to attend South Dakota universities and technical schools.
“What I found from chairing (the Legislature’s) postsecondary education committee is the absolute need for funding,” Olson said.
Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, the Democratic leader in the House, said Democrats will support the measure, calling it “long overdue.”
The program may start small and grow from there. Olson said he’ll probably call to create an endowment with one-time funding, and possibly look to shift more state money into the scholarship program in the future.
The South Dakota Board of Regents believes it would take between $5 million and $10 million per year to create a sufficient needs-based scholarship program, more money than Olson is talking about.
“You’ve got to walk before you run,” said Hunhoff. “We’ve got to start somewhere.”
Olson’s plan would stretch the state’s money by setting up matches between the state scholarship and scholarships funded by alumni groups.
South Dakota, the only state in the country without a need-based scholarship, created the framework for such a scholarship several years ago, but didn’t fund it, Hunhoff said.
Olson said he may build on that existing legal framework for his bill.