Adult completer scholarship gets off to a slow start

With one semester in the books, Idaho has had only a handful of takers for its new “adult completer” scholarship.

The state has awarded only 28 scholarships, under a program designed to help adults return to college and finish work on a degree. Scholarship awards totaled only $77,875.

That’s a far cry from the spending cap for the new scholarship. When a divided Legislature approved the adult completer program this year — ending a three-year debate on the issue —  lawmakers directed the State Board of Education to spend up to 20 percent of its scholarship money on the adult completer program. Since lawmakers put $13.5 million into the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship for 2018-19, this equates to a $2.7 million cap for the adult completer scholarship.

But with relatively few adult students receiving money, the State Board could have more money to put into the Opportunity Scholarship, a popular offering aimed at traditional college students. For years, the State Board has had to turn away eligible students, due to a shortage of scholarship dollars.

When lawmakers approved the adult completer scholarship, opponents said they didn’t want to cut into the Opportunity Scholarship money, shutting out even more applicants.

But supporters, including Gov. Butch Otter, said the adult completer scholarship represented an important cog in Idaho’s efforts to hit its ”60 percent goal.” The state’s education, political and business leaders want 60 percent of Idaho’s young adults to obtain a college degree or professional certificate. That rate is stuck at 42 percent.

According to the State Board, most adult completer scholarship applicants weren’t eligible for a share of the state’s money.

The board received 113 applications; 65 applicants were ineligible. Another seven applicants had not completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is also required for state scholarships.

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