House committee approves bill to increase South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship

High-achieving South Dakota students may receive an increase in the state-funded merit-based Opportunity Scholarship. The House Education Committee passed House Bill 1055 on Wednesday, a measure that would increase the Opportunity Scholarship award from $6500 over four years to $7500.

The Opportunity Scholarship is available to South Dakota students who score a 24 on the ACT and are on a college prep or technical education track, or a 27 ACT for home-schooled students. Officials say nearly 9,000 students have received the scholarship since it was funded in 2004. Nursing was the top major among the scholars.

“We know this keeps students in the state. They’re high-performing students, they go into important programs. The number one program they go into and graduate from is nursing, and I think we all know we have a huge need for nurses. Mechanical engineers, elementary education, and civil engineers are all in the top 10 or 12 fields,” said Representative Tony Venhuizen of Sioux Falls, who sponsored the bill.

Brandy Miesnera from the Noem Administration’s Bureau of Finance and Management said the administration was concerned about the increase in funding, the ongoing expense, and the fact there are other state scholarship programs.

“The ongoing cost of $280,000 does not take into account that there is unutilized budget when determining the actual cost. Additionally, the state has committed funding to other scholarships that are available to students such as the Build Dakota Scholarship, Critical Teaching Needs, Dakota Corp, and the Freedom Scholarship,” Miesnara said.

The committee voted 15 to 0 on a do-pass motion to send the measure to the Joint Appropriations Committee for additional consideration.





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