Bill to Polis' desk would create scholarship program for ex-youth inmates seeking higher education

General Election - Education
Posted at 11:53 AM, Apr 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-30 20:36:34-04

DENVER – A bill on its way to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk would establish a scholarship program for certain people who have spent time in custody of the state Division of Youth Services and who are seeking higher education.

SB19-231, which is sponsored by Sens. Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City) and Jeff Bridges (D-Arapahoe Co.) and Reps. Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs) and Kerry Tipper (D-Lakewood), passed the House Tuesday in a 43-22 vote. It passed the full Senate 21-13 on April 22.

The measure, if signed by Polis, would establish the Colorado Second Chance Scholarship program, which would establish a board that would oversee the program to award scholarships of up to $10,000 to former youth offenders who qualify for the program.

“Financially investing in the educational success of youth involved with the division of youth services in the department of human services has proven to have significant positive impacts on reducing recidivism,” the bill states.

The executive director of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education will appoint a program coordinator who will meet with the recipients on a regular basis and set education and employment goals under the measure.

The measure also creates an advisory board for the scholarship program that includes five members: the director of the Division of Youth Services; the executive director of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education; the executive director of the Department of Human Services; the program coordinator of the scholarship program; and a person who previously serve time in the Division of Youth Services who will be appointed by the division’s director.

The scholarships will be capped at $10,000 per person, and the amount awarded will be “based on the person’s degree of financial need, the cost of attendance, the amount available for the applicable budget year, and the anticipated number of persons who will apply to the scholarship program in the course of the applicable budget year,” the bill says.

To be eligible for the scholarship, a potential recipient will have had to have served time in youth services, shown they need financial assistance, already have been accepted to a university or college, accredited trade school, community college or certificate program.

“This bill is personal to me because I have a Division of Youth Services facility in my district. If we can get our young people the help they need to get a higher education after they’ve gone through the rehabilitation process, then we can lower the recidivism rate and in return, they will be productive members of society,” Exum said in a statement. “It will cost taxpayers more in the long term than it will to improve the lives of our young people with education and give them a more fulfilling life.”

The advisory board for the program will meet by Nov. 1 and will then meet four times a year to establish any additional rules for applicants to the program.

Fiscal analysis from the Legislative Council Staff estimates 25 scholarships of the maximum $10,000 each would be awarded per year, though the final amount will be decided by the advisory board.

It estimates the program would cost the state $313,691 in FY2019-20 and $320,402 in FY2020-21 -- $250,000 of which each fiscal year would go directly toward the scholarships.

The LCS says that about 200 people each year who hold a diploma or GED are discharged from the Division of Youth Services.

“This is a smart investment in some of our most vulnerable youth. These are kids that made some mistakes early on in their lives, but are now just trying to get back on track to invest in their future and create a better life for themselves. This program could be the only opportunity many of these kids will have to get a fresh start,” Tipper said in a statement.

The program and board will be repealed Sept. 1, 2022 after a sunset review.