Hunger prevention. Gov. Steve Bullock saved 2,172 Montana households from cuts in their federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. To address changes in the new farm bill, Bullock ordered the state to increase heating assistance for low-income households. That change will cost Montana about $24,000 per year while preserving $2 million in SNAP benefits — feeding needy Montanans and putting money into local economies.
Farewell Prince. Prince, only the second male tiger ever to reside at ZooMontana, died last week of cancer at the age of 18. A representative of the endangered Siberian tiger species, Prince reigned as one of the zoo’s biggest stars for a decade. Children of all ages will miss him and hope ZooMontana welcomes a new tiger soon.
Student debt. Default rates on Montana student loans rose sharply during the Great Recession with more than 10 percent of student loans in default in 2011 at every Montana University System unit, except for Montana State University in Bozeman where the rate was 5.7 percent. The highest default rates were reported at Flathead Valley Community College (17.4 percent) and Dawson Community College (16.9 percent).
Science success. A Will James Middle School team won the Big Sky Regional Science Bowl and a trip to Washington, D.C., next month where they will compete in the national bowl. Congrats to the students and teacher-coaches.