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"On the day they start eighth grade, they would get a letter from the Board of Regents, saying, 'Jimmy, Sally, here's your scholarship. The money is in your name and it's bearing interest,' '' said Richard Kendell, the recently retired Utah commissioner of higher education. '' 'Maintain a B average and this scholarship is yours.' ''

The so-called Regents Scholarship Program is proposed in a bill that Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, will sponsor when lawmakers convene later this month.

The legislation proposes spending $7 million a year to fund the estimated 7,000 students expected to qualify for the scholarship.

Although retired, Kendell will help shepherd the scholarship program through the Legislature as a consultant for the regents. During his more than four years as higher education commissioner, he watched in dismay as the percentage of Utahns ages 24 to 35 with college degrees shrank and college enrollment remained flat. He and other education officials fear Utah could lose a competitive edge if that trend continues.

"We have been very modest and proposed a $1,000 scholarship, but I would like to give them $2,500 or $3,000," Kendell said. "Symbolically that says something very important to a kid in the eighth grade and to their parents: 'Here is the scholarship we thought we would never get. We just need to stay on task and take these classes, get good grades, and you can go to college.' ''

Hillyard also believes such a scholarship would encourage parents and grandparents to contribute to their high-schoolers' college savings funds and would decrease the need for remedial courses at the college level.

"Other states have tried to do this, and we'll try to avoid their mistakes," Hillyard said, noting that these states' programs failed to adhere to strict academic standards or simply promised tuition waivers. "We want it to be a meaningful program, not just have everyone qualify for it."

Utah has 35,000 eighth-graders, but only one in five would be expected to qualify for the scholarship by the time each class graduated. The scholarship, which could be used at any college or university and would be worth about $1,350 with the five years of interest, requires completion of a tough core curriculum of four years of math, four years of English, 3 1/2 years of social science, three years of science and some foreign language.

"We're saying endow this eighth-grade class with $7 million. By the time they are ready to go to college, they get automatic admission to a Utah school and a scholarship," Kendell said. "These kids have something to shoot for. Parents are going to grab onto that. They'll work hard for that. I'd like to see the private sector kick in money."


* BRIAN MAFFLY can be contacted at bmaffly@ or 801-257-8605.

Regents Scholarship

Attention Utah eighth-graders: Here's how to win $1,000 plus interest for college under legislation expected to be introduced during the upcoming legislative session. Maintain a 3.0 grade-point average in high school and take:

* Four years of math

* Four years of English

* 3 1/2 years of social science

* Three years of science

* Two years of foreign language

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