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State scholarship could undergo fundamental changes

Legislature considers changing Academic Excellence Award

State scholarship could undergo fundamental changes

LA CROSSE, WI (WKBT) - One of the most prestigious merit scholarships in Wisconsin may undergo a major make-over.

The academic excellence scholarship has been given out for 25 years. It's awarded to the top students at high schools across Wisconsin. But a new bill aims to fundamentally change who receives the award and how much it's worth.

Right now, the number of students who receive the scholarship depends on each school's population. For example, Logan High School hands out two academic excellence awards, and Central hands out three. But under the new bill, the scholarship could make a bigger impact on fewer students in our state.

Konnor Reikowski is a Logan High senior who's starting to count the dollars he'll spend on college next year. He's pretty good with numbers - and today he's getting out of his AP Calculus class to talk to me about a different kind of math.

Konnor is at the top of his class, which makes him eligible for the Academic Excellence Scholarship - that's a $2,000 yearly award to help pay for tuition. The catch is, Konnor has to attend an in-state college, and he's actively searching out of the state.

For him, it all comes down to money.

"Affordability is kind of my first priority in deciding where to go," Konnor says.

"I think that right now a big part of him would like to look at Wisconsin, but if he ends up getting a full-tuition scholarship in the University of Minnesota, I think that's probably the direction he would go," says his mother.

Logan High hands out 2 academic excellence awards each year - but many students turn it down to attend an out-of-state university, where they may receive more scholarships.

That's something Wisconsin's Legislature is trying to change - a new bill would bump up the scholarship from $2,000 to half of the cost of tuition.

That's an increase that could change Konnor's mind.

"I doubt other places would offer me half, so if it was half I would definitely go to [Wisconsin]."

The legislation would also cut the number of students who receive the award by nearly half, from 800 to 450.

That would put students like senior Nancy Puent at a disadvantage. Nancy is currently a runner-up for the scholarship. But under the new bill, only one Logan student would be able to receive it.

"I think that they should keep it the way it is," she says. "It's just kind of unfair."

Konnor's decision to stay in-state ultimately comes down to dollars.

"He really wants to wait and see which school will give him the most amount of money," his mom says.

A bigger academic excellence award could help his math add up.

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