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Utah students who earn a popular state scholarship though rigorous college preparation classes will get more money for school next year, but awards will shrink for students who complete an associate degree while in high school.

After a Friday vote by the Utah Board of Regents, the amount of Regents' Scholarship Exemplary Awards will increase and the New Century Scholarship will go down, making each worth $1,100 per semester.

The Regents' scholarship is far more popular, attracting nearly 3,000 applications so far this year, compared to almost 400 for New Century, said Melissa Miller Kincart, assistant commissioner for outreach and access at the Utah System of Higher Education. It's also growing — awards could be up by as much as 60 percent this year — while New Century numbers are stagnant.

"It is appealing to students because it's work they can actually do in high school," said Kincart. Guidance counselors can help students meet the requirements, which include good grades in four years of math, two years of a foreign language and lab science, among others.

Earning an associate degree while in high school can be trickier.

"Sometimes ... kids don't know what they want to pursue at age 16," Kincart said.

Created in 1999 to encourage students to move through college more quickly, the New Century scholarship once covered 75 percent of college tuition for two years. But the funding was cut about four years ago, and applications to the program fell as lawmakers tightened the requirements.

The Regents' Scholarship, created in 2008, has also been cut, though it didn't originally cover as large a portion of students' tuition.

This year, Utah System of Higher Education leaders asked the Utah Legislature for another $2 million to fund both scholarships but only got another $1 million. In response, the New Century award was cut from $1,250 per semester, while the Regents' award increased from $900 a semester last year.

"I think some students are moving from New Century to Regents," said Utah Commissioner for Higher Education David Buhler. "Both are very highly motivated."

Along with the per-semester stipend, the Regents' scholarship offers a one-time base payment of $1,000 per student and up to $400 in state money to match money saved in a state college savings fund.

Twitter: @lwhitehurst

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