The Regents' Scholarship, which is intended to put an additional $1,000 in the hands of high school graduates who completed a "rigorous course of study," came under fire by the Administrative Rules Committee Wednesday.
The Board of Regents is being asked to further clarify conditions and requirements of the scholarship, making it available to students who have "clearly worked hard enough to prepare for college" but currently would be ineligible for the award, said committee chairman Sen. Howard A. Stephenson, R-Draper.
"We are open to making adjustments," said Assistant Commissioner of Higher Education Dave Doty. The Board of Regents, he said, will consider any and all concerns and modify the bill to reflect the intent of the scholarship, which is to "motivate and encourage more students to increase their academic preparation for college."
By the May 30 deadline, more than 700 applications for the scholarship had been received at the office of the Utah System of Higher Education, and Doty said each and every one will be considered on its own merits, "in a fair and equal way."
Mike Jones, of Highland, said his daughter should be included in the pool of eligible applicants, even though she passed AP calculus during her junior year. Requirements of the scholarship state that a math class should be completed each year in high school, as well as beyond algebra 2.
Instead of taking math as a senior, Jones said his daughter used the time to "explore her career path" as an elementary school teacher.
"She used the additional time in her senior year wisely," Jones told lawmakers, adding that he fears the four-year math requirement "penalizes students attempting to excel."
Although regents set forth the requirements based on various national studies and based it on the Utah Scholars core curriculum, they are open to accommodating as many students as possible in the hope of increasing enrollment and retention in Utah's colleges and universities. As it stands, before any further clarification is made, students needing one or two courses to become eligible have until Sept. 1 to complete them.
"Applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis," Doty said. "We want to make sure the scholarship is rewarding what it is intended to reward."
The scholarship is for students who have demonstrated rigor, or excellence in various subjects, maintaining at least a 3.0 GPA throughout high school. There is, however, an appeals process already written into the rules to allow full consideration for all students who feel they are viable candidates for the award.
"I find it repulsive that you are taking a bureaucratic approach to the rule and affecting students lives," Stephenson said. "It's insensitive to students who are academically gifted and working hard to take rigorous courses in high school." He asked Doty to consider removing the timing requirement and base the award upon success.Doty confirmed that Jones' daughter would not be penalized for taking the math courses too early, adding that she, and others with similar concerns, would be considered along with the rest of the applicants for the scholarship this year and that a clarification could be made to include either the four-years of math or successful passing of AP calculus. Other considerations will also be made as the scholarship is still in its first year of implementation.