SIOUX FALLS — College students who get poor grades in a handful of semesters may be able to hold on to their South Dakota Freedom Scholarships or apply for new ones — as long as they remain on track to graduate with a 2.0 grade-point average.
That guidance for participating universities came from the Freedom Scholarship Board of Directors during its Monday, Oct. 23 meeting at First Premier Bank in Sioux Falls.
Individual university administrators will have final say on scholarship eligibility
The board considered a policy to outline if and when a dip in the scholarship’s required GPA target would trigger ineligibility, but its members voted to leave those decisions in the hands of university administrators.
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The scholarship is a pool of funds created by the South Dakota Legislature, designed to reward students who choose South Dakota schools for their bachelor’s degrees and stay in the state for at least three years after graduation.
The scholarship dollars convert to loans with a 4% fixed interest rate for students who don’t graduate within five years, miss the minimum GPA mark or leave the state less than three years after graduation.
The endowment for the needs-based scholarships was built from $50 million in taxpayer funds and contributions from donors including First Premier Bank founder T. Denny Sanford, Avera and Sanford Health. In 2022, the first year the scholarships were disbursed, the total endowment stood at $220 million.
The scholarship board voted to dispense $5.1 million in the first round of awards in 2022, and a similar amount for this year.
1,354 Freedom Scholarships awarded in fall 2022
In fall 2022, there were 1,354 scholarships awarded, according to Freedom Scholarship Coordinator Elli Haerter of the South Dakota Community Foundation. This fall saw another 1,360 awards.
The first 25 scholarship recipients to graduate earned their degrees in December of 2022, and another 129 recipients graduated this spring.
Haerter told the board there were several nursing students among those graduates, and several plan to pursue graduate degrees.
“Some of the students are on their way to med school,” Haerter said.