PUEBLO — Pueblo County is able to provide more scholarship funds than ever before.
$1.95 million are going to help students afford college education this springs, as a result of pulling from excise tax of marijuana sales.
These scholarship funds would usually only go to the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation and allow them to provide students with money. This time around, the county accepted applications for more distributors.
“We felt that if we opened it up for entities to apply, we were going to have fresh ideas, a lot of innovation and those dollars would be competed for and we’d have some really good places to award," said Pueblo County Commissioner Garrison Ortiz.
Pueblo Community College, Colorado State University Pueblo, Pueblo African American Concern Organization, the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation and the Southern Colorado Press Club all received portion of the scholarship fund to then distribute to recipients.
"We're... making sure that every individual in Pueblo has the opportunity to get an education if they want it, and we're here to help," said President of PCC Patty Erjavec.
PCC has already distributed 238 scholarships to students this year, receiving a total of $800,000. The college is also providing scholarship opportunities to those who are not currently enrolled, through their "Return to Earn" program. Return to Earn offer scholarships to PCC's former "successful students" who found themselves dropping out, in an effort to help them finish their degrees.
The increase in funds comes roughly three years after an independent financial audit that found Pueblo County employees had been misusing tax dollars. Last year Ortiz established a Marijuana Tax Oversight committee.
“That group is basically a committee board that has inside and oversight of all the finances and can make recommendations or provide good insight as to where all of your marijuana tax dollars do go," said Otiz.
The funds were passed on January 26 and have to be spent by the end of the current semester, otherwise they will be returned to the county and used for future scholarships.