Executive Council green-lights N.H. governor’s scholarship program

  • Democratic Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky (center left) voices concerns with a $4.1 million scholarship program by Gov. Chris Sununu over the availability of state money for religious institutions during a meeting Wednesday, April 11, 2018. The council voted, 3-2, to approve the scholarship program. Ethan DeWitt / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/11/2018 8:01:35 PM

The Executive Council green-lit a $4.1 million state-funded scholarship plan Wednesday, moving forward a key initiative by Gov. Chris Sununu despite last-minute constitutional concerns by Democrats.

The program, approved by legislators last year, will provide for scholarship funding for 23 post-secondary institutions and training programs. Open to any New Hampshire high school graduates who are eligible to receive Pell Grants, the scholarships are set to be available for the next school year.

Under the program, funding is divided equally among the schools, which range from Dartmouth College in Hanover to the NHTI in Concord. Four-year programs would receive $160,000 each, while two-year programs would be allotted $96,000.

Sununu welcomed the program as a means to provide opportunities to an estimated 1,000 students in the state. But Democrats raised objections, citing a letter Wednesday morning from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire that took issue with the inclusion of religious schools.

Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, asked for the decision to be postponed in order for the attorney general to conduct a formal review of the program’s constitutionality. Sununu pushed back, arguing that doing so would prejudice college students making financial decisions this month who could benefit from the funds.

After a heated hearing, the council moved to approve the item, 3-2, along party lines.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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