More Millennium Scholars in school

Because he is visually impaired, 2000 Carson High School graduate Nathen Berger did not want to go to college far from home.

Western Nevada Community College filled the need and the Millennium Scholarship made it possible.

"I think (the scholarship) is a very good idea," Berger said. "Anyone who wants to go to college should be able to go to college. If they can't because they can't pay for it, that's not right."

Berger was one of 141 Millennium Scholars to enroll at the college last year.

The scholarship was established in 1999 through a multi-billion dollar settlement with the tobacco industry for statewide smoking-related illnesses.

It pays up to $10,000 and is available for all Nevada seniors who graduate with at least a B average in an attempt to keep the state's brightest students at home.

In 2000, the first year the scholarship was available, 59 percent of the 7,184 eligible students accepted the offer to attend an in-state college or university.

Recipients are required to maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average and complete at least 12 credits per semester.

Berger, who is majoring in elementary education, found the standards relatively easy to maintain.

"It wasn't too difficult as long as you stayed focused and didn't procrastinate, of course," he said.

After the first semester, 3,378 - about 79 percent - of those students met the requirements.

Of those who did not qualify, 535 stayed in school to regain eligibility, bringing the retention rate of Millennium Scholars up to 92 percent.

At Western Nevada Community College, 141 Millennium Scholars enrolled in the fall semester and about 87 percent of them maintained their eligibility.

Of the 22 who lost eligibility, 11 returned in the spring.

The University of Nevada, Reno had 1,409 enroll in the fall and 84 percent of them maintained the standards.

Of the 1,182 who lost their eligibility, 153 returned in the spring to try to regain that eligibility.

Originally, students who lost eligibility were required to pay the money back to the state. However, the 2001 Legislature reversed that stipulation.

The number of last year's students who returned this year is not yet available.

Richard Curry, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the University and Community College System of Nevada, said it is difficult to analyze the numbers.

"It's hard to draw any conclusions from them because it's our first year," he said. "What is interesting would be to find out what's going on with the other 40 percent (who did not use the scholarship). Many probably went out-of-state and others may have delayed entrance."

In a study comparing a group of non-scholarship full-time students to a group of Millennium Scholars, 92 percent of the University of Nevada, Reno's Millennium Scholars returned while 87 percent of non-scholarship students returned.

At Western Nevada Community College, 85 percent of Millennium Scholars returned and 70 percent of non-scholars did.


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