CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A bill to inject more "rigor" into Hathaway scholarship requirements to give students a better chance of getting through college passed its first test on the floor of the Senate Wednesday.
As House Bill 13 comes up for a second Senate vote today, it adds two years each of foreign language, fine and performing arts or career/vocational education to the course requirements of the scholarship program's top tier.
The added courses list wouldn't go into effect until the 2013-14 school year.
Senators from districts with small schools, including Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, questioned how a small school with 100 to 120 students and 11 teachers could cover all the coursework required for the scholarship.
Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, asked how the additional courses would take away from the existing school curriculum.
Sen. Kit Jennings, R-Casper, said distance learning courses are available online that are tailored for small schools. But Schiffer said that even with online courses, students must have a teacher to supervise them, which is problematic in a school with only 11 teachers.
Sen. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange, predicted that small schools will need more resources and will be coming to the Legislature for financial help.
"I guess this is a forewarning," Meier said. "I'm not saying whether it's good or bad."
Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, opposed the course list, pointing out that schools in his district have a half-time Spanish teacher. Foreign language, he added, is difficult to learn online.
"The access isn't there for small schools," Driskill said.
Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the group had "tremendous pressure" from the fine arts and vocational supporters before the legislative session. He said all 22 similar scholarship plans in the nation have those courses as requirements.
The committee, he said, did not receive any testimony on the bill from representatives of the small schools.
Coe also said that a Wyoming high school graduate cannot get into Colorado State University at Fort Collins without two years of foreign language.
Sen. Mike Von Flatern, R-Gillette, strongly supported the bill. He said that 49.5 percent of students lose their scholarships during the first year of college at the lowest of the four scholarship levels. Only 11.7 percent of students lose their scholarship at the highest honor scholarship level, he said.
"We need to keep that rigor going to get them through college, not just going," Von Flatern said.
Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said the smaller schools may have a difficult time offering the scholarship course requirements, "but they've been doing it for four years."
He also said that national and international data show that arts and career vocational education courses lead to better student success in college.