Pueblo County Scholarship grows to nearly $750,000

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The world’s first cannabis-tax funded scholarship continues to grow with nearly $750,000 in funding available to graduating Pueblo seniors attending a local college or university.
Pueblo County hopes to award nearly 600 scholarships for the 2018/2019 academic year, which would be 180 more than the number of scholarships awarded in 2017. In 2017, 210 $2,000 scholarships totaling $420,000 were awarded. The exact number of scholarships and the amount of scholarships will be determined by the number of applicants, funding available and need.
New this year, $75,000 will be available for merit- and need-specific scholarships, Additionally, the majority of scholarships no longer have a financial-need requirement or a GPA other than what schools require for admission.
“Even if you’re not sure if you’re eligible, you should apply. We have $75,000 available for students who may not fall into the Pueblo County Scholarship’s defined criteria,” Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation Executive Director Beverly Duran said.
In past years, between 300 and 400 incoming college freshmen have graduated from local high schools and attended a local Pueblo college.
The majority of the Pueblo County Scholarship is funded by $700,000 from marijuana excise tax. The remainder of funds are from the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI), a Colorado Department of Higher Education grant program. Pueblo County’s marijuana excise tax is a tax charged to marijuana cultivators, only once, when marijuana is first sold or transferred to a retail store or manufacturer.
Those COSI funds would not be available without a local match, which was made possible by the cannabis-funded scholarship program.
Every local high school senior is automatically eligible for the Pueblo County Scholarship as long as they are graduating from a high school in Pueblo County and have been accepted to a local college or university.
Even though every local high school senior is automatically eligible, graduating seniors still have to apply for the scholarship to be awarded the scholarship.
Applications for Pueblo County Scholarships are available on the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation (PHEF) website at http://www.phef.net. Scholarship applications are due Thursday, March 1, 2018. PHEF administers the scholarship on behalf of Pueblo County. PHEF will notify students of scholarship awards in late Spring 2018.
The Pueblo County Scholarship Fund was created by a ballot initiative in the 2015 Coordinated Election. A minimum of 50 percent of all of the marijuana excise tax collected in Pueblo County is allocated to the Pueblo County Scholarship Fund. The remaining marijuana excise tax revenue is allocated to a list of community enhancement projects.
Pueblo County has been collecting excise tax, by voter approval, since January 1, 2016. The excise tax rate is currently at three percent and will increase by one percent annually until a five percent excise tax rate is achieved. No less than half of the excise tax collected by the County is required to go into the Pueblo County Scholarship Fund. The remainder of the excise tax revenue must go towards a specific list of capital improvement projects.
Students and parents with questions about the scholarship or application process should call PHEF at 719-549-2563 or email PHEF Executive Director Beverly Duran at beverly@phef.net.
Media looking for more information are asked to please contact Paris Elliott, Pueblo County Community Information Manager at elliottp@pueblocounty.us or 719-252-8550.