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Bill would increase incentives for early high school graduation



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SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers are hoping to increase the incentives and resources for students to graduate early from high school through Utah's Centennial Scholarship program.

The program awards students who complete high school at or before their third quarter of their senior year. The earlier students graduate, the higher their scholarship amount becomes. Currently, the maximum scholarship amount is $1,000 for those who graduate during their junior year.

SB33 would double the current maximum amount to $2,000. The bill would also provide resources to inform parents and students, beginning in eighth grade, of classes to consider in preparing for college, as well as the options available in completing high school ahead of schedule.

The bill was first introduced in 2011 but was unable to gain House approval by the end of the legislative session.

Bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, said more effectively notifying families of the scholarship and paths for early graduation would reduce the need for remediation and increase student participation in concurrent enrollment — taking high school courses with college credit.

"The idea is to standardize the communication, make sure they're aware of the classes they could take to reduce the amount of remediation that is required or to reduce the amount of time they spend in college," Osmond said.

Sydnee Dickson, deputy superintendent of the Utah State Office of Education, said encouraging students to take advantage of concurrent enrollment courses could improve graduation rates at Utah's colleges and universities. Utah's average college completion rate is 39 percent, according to the Utah System of Higher Education.

"What we have found is that students who take at least two concurrent (classes) have a much higher rate of college completion," Dickson said.

The bill was unanimously recommended Tuesday for Senate approval by the Senate Education Committee.

Morgan Jacobsen

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