PUEBLO, Colorado — Pueblo County recently distributed a fresh round grant money from the marijuana excise tax to the community's college scholarship program. That program is run by the non-profit Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation. Board president Matt Bernal is encouraging high school seniors in Pueblo to spend a little time over Christmas break getting ready to apply. The application window opens up on New Year's Day.
"We've gotten the average award amount to $2,500 to $2,700 per academic year," Bernal said. "So, you divide that between two semesters and we're making a larger impact for more students."
In September, PHEF awarded scholarships to 457 students from Pueblo. Bernal estimates by the 2024 school year, the first full decade of the program, they will have awarded $2.5 million dollars in scholarships. Most of that money is going to students enrolled at either CSU Pueblo or PCC.
"We're just really proud to be able to give back to Pueblo, and I want to thank the County Commissioner and the voters and the institutions for helping us do what we do," Bernal said.
In June, Pueblo County Commissioners expanded the program to allow for scholarship awards to non-traditional students and students looking to study outside of Pueblo County.
Bernal explained that the state run Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) matches the money raised from the excise tax to effectively double the size of the funding pool.
"Any of the COSI money can be used at any accredited facility in Colorado," he said. "So, we can go to any place in Colorado with that money. The County has offered what we call the Merit Need Fund which can go anywhere in the United States."
The application requires an essay, community service hours, and minimum grade point average of 2.5. The scholarships are limited just to students from Pueblo County.