Pueblo County, Colorado, has awarded 25 local high school students with a college scholarship financed by the funds generated from cannabis excise taxes.
In cooperation with the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation, the county has allocated $750,000 for high school students. Though the full funds will be available next year, Pueblo County has already awarded college scholarships to 25 students that graduated from high schools this year. Besides, the county also participates in the 2015-16 Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative that devotes $226,597 to scholarship grants.
Thanks to these two grants combined, 25 students of Pueblo County were granted $2,000 scholarships—half of the sum was received from the state opportunity grant, and the other half was covered by the weed excise tax funds. The high school students can use these funds either at Pueblo Community College or Colorado State University-Pueblo.
These grants are a great opportunity for students who just graduated from local high schools to get a college degree without taking out loans. For instance, Janet Calzadillas Chavez, who is one of the 25 grant recipients, is going to receive education at college and will become the first in her family with a college degree. If she successfully passes her International Baccalaureate exams, Chavez will finish her education in just three years.
Last year, the county put the initiative of the cannabis exit tax on the ballot with the purpose to finance the furthering of education for local students. This initiative is vital for Pueblo, as it allows bringing more educated workforce to high-tech businesses and stimulating the county's economy as a result.
Sal Pace, the county commissioner for District 3, understands the importance of cannabis development for Pueblo's economy. Marijuana cultivation in the county is less expensive than in Denver, thus, many weed growers have relocated down to Pueblo. Sal Pace has created legislation that divides revenues from pot excise taxes between special projects. Now, 50% of the funds are devoted to college scholarships, while other 50% are dedicated to community improvement projects.
The Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation helps the county distribute the cannabis funds as it has been raising money for scholarships for more than thirty years. Though the foundation previously rejected some applications, it may face the opposite problem next year, as the ballot provides college scholarships for 400 high school students in the county.
Some people have a skeptical attitude towards these scholarships because of the fund origins, but it is more important whom the cannabis money will help. For Pueblo students, it is a great opportunity to get a college degree that would be otherwise beyond their budgets.