Photo courtesy of Zach Conine campaign
Zach Conine walks with his family into the Joe Crowley Student Union on Friday, Oct. 26. Conine said, if elected, he would prioritize funding for the Governor Guinn Millennium Scholarship

Zach Conine (NV-D), candidate for Nevada State Treasurer has been traveling across the state of Nevada encouraging citizens to vote in the Nov. 6 elections.

The treasurer of Nevada is responsible for monitoring state budgets, track unclaimed property, pay state bills and manage college saving plans. The plans managed by the treasurer include 529 plan, prepaid college tuition programs and the Governor Guinn Millennium Scholarship. The Millenium Scholarship was enacted into law in the 1999 Nevada State Legislature, which created the Millenium Scholarship Trust Fund administered by the state treasurer.

The scholarship is primarily funded by the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement — 40 percent of settlement funds were used to fund the scholarship. TMSA involved the four largest tobacco companies in the United States — Brown & Williamson, Lorillard, Philip Morris, and R.J. Reynolds — which resulted in 46 state Attorney Generals to settle lawsuits associated with treatments of smoking-related illnesses, according to the Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition.

Conine said the issue is the funds were meant to only last 10 years, but as more students stayed in Nevada for post secondary education the scholarship has had funding insecurities.

“Over time more people [in Nevada] have been are using the scholarship, and fewer people are smoking,” Conine said. “The combination of fewer people smoking and more people using it have created a situation where the Millenium scholarship is not sustainable based on the money that is currently in. The money that was added to the [cigarette settlement] tax went into a fund,which started the Millenium Scholarship. It continued because it was the single most effective tool Nevada has ever devised to get students to go to college.”

The public high school class of 2016 had a total of 12,717 of 24,908, 51.1 percent, and 7,103 activated scholarship; in total 19,820 students were eligible for the Millenium Scholarship according to the Nevada System of Higher Education.  

Conine said the Nevada Legislature and and treasurers office has lacked to ensure the Millenium Scholarship is properly funded and to invest properly in Nevada’s education. Conine added the scholarship can be funded by unclaimed property and having the legislature endow the program.

“The program needs to be constantly funded,” Conine said. “It needs to have a funding source that is permanent. It needs to happen because effectively every two years there’s an emergency measure to put more money. [The Millenium Scholarship] no longer exist under it own momentum, and it can we [the treasures office and legislature] just need to fund it to the level it needs to be funded.”

Conine said the state government needs to better invest in this program for the long term and tackle the issue as an investor would.

“I’m an investor,” Conine said. “When you’re an investor you don’t look at how much can i put in today to take out tomorrow; you look at how much can i put in today to take out ten years from now.”

The Millenium Scholarship is available for high school graduates students who have a 3.5 grade point average or higher and take 14 units, according to Nevada Treasurer. The scholarship ensures $10,000 for students throughout college but in order to remain eligible for the scholarship college students must maintain a 2.75 college GPA . 

Andrew Mendez can be reached at andrewmendez@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush