The Board of Pueblo County Commissioners approved a contract Monday to make available an estimated $475,000 for what it calls “the world’s first cannabis-funded scholarship” for entering college freshmen.
The commissioners approved the contract between Pueblo County and the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation to administer the scholarship to college freshmen living and attending school in Pueblo County. Those scholarship funds will be available to students starting college this fall, according to a Feb. 13 news release.
According to the release, $425,000 of that funding is derived from cannabis excise tax revenue collected in Pueblo County, while an additional $49,664 is from the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative.
“Pueblo County has been on the forefront of cannabis policy in America and the world,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace. “The full roll-out of our cannabis-funded scholarship program is groundbreaking.”
This year, graduating high school seniors who reside in Pueblo County and plan to attend college this fall at either Pueblo Community College or Colorado State University-Pueblo will automatically qualify for the scholarship.
The commissioners said they expect a $1,000 scholarship to be available for each qualifying applicant, but that they plan to distribute remaining funds based on merit and need if there is a surplus.
“We are the first community in the world to provide a cannabis-funded scholarship to every graduating high school senior,” Pace said. “It is so critically important to make college affordable for our youth if we want to provide long-term economic opportunity to our community. Too many kids can’t afford to go to college, with this program we are taking cannabis-tax revenue and using it to provide for a brighter future in Pueblo.”
Last year — the first year of the scholarship program, which was created by a ballot measure in the 2015 Coordinated Election — awarded $50,000 in total scholarship funding to 23 graduating high school seniors in order to begin their college educations.
The release said that no less than 50 percent of the marijuana excise tax revenue collected in Pueblo County is allocated for the scholarship fund, while the remaining funds are allocated to community enhancement projects throughout the county. The 2-percent tax (which will increase by 1 percent each year until it reaches 5 percent in 2020) applies to all marijuana grown in Pueblo County and has been collected since Jan. 1, 2016.
Students can apply for the Pueblo County Scholarship online at phef.net and applications are due April 30.