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Scholarship proposal would incentivize student service

A new proposal from Utah’s governor would provide stipends and scholarships to young adults who participate in a year of service.

“Service and the commitment to give back are defining features of our state culture and we want to keep it that way,” said Gov. Spencer Cox. “Volunteering has benefits for the giver, the receiver and the entire community, and that’s why we’re launching several initiatives that support volunteering.”

One of the initiatives is the One Utah Service Fellowship, a pilot program that is part of Cox’s fiscal year 2025 budget proposal. If approved by the legislature, the program would provide full-time service opportunities for Utahns who have graduated high school in the past five years. Participants would receive an hourly stipend and a $7,400 scholarship in exchange for 1,700 hours of service with an approved partner organization.

Cox announced the fellowship proposal at his Why We Serve Symposium on Monday, Jan. 8 at the Delta Center. University of Utah President Taylor Randall moderated the symposium’s Service as a Pathway to Success panel which featured State Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden; Paul Monteiro, Maryland secretary of service and civic innovation; and Marie Groark, Schultz Foundation managing director. During the panel, Randall shared how a service opportunity tutoring children during graduate school helped him change his priorities.

“I realized that my future career on Wall Street was not as important to me as educating people,” Randall said. “That is where I made my big career change in the middle of an MBA and decided to become an educator.”

There are three pillars to the U’s mission: inspiring student success, innovating through research and serving all of Utah and beyond. Established in 1987, the Bennion Center is part of the U’s rich history of student service. According to Randall, the new fellowship proposal complements the U’s goal of boosting service learning.

“Nearly 5,000 students a year get credit for service-learning classes at the U,” Randall said. “Right now, we plan to create a pilot program to begin giving credit for prior service. We are also working to revive our Hope Corps.”

The U’s first iteration of the Hope Corps was spearheaded in 2020 by the David Eccles School of Business as a statewide effort to assist small businesses, non-profits and the people of Utah by connecting students with internship and project opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students were provided an hourly wage and received a scholarship upon completion. The program continued in the years to come under the direction of the Hinckley Institute of Politics with students also earning credit for their work. U leadership is now working with peer institutions across the state to expand this opportunity for more Utah students.

“We need to make this the Utah way,” said Millner, the primary sponsor of the One Utah Fellowship. “Service is the Utah way of solving problems at a community level, of helping people one by one and doing it in ways where we are working in areas that we really care about.”

Millner said she sees the fellowship as an opportunity to help young Utahns gain maturity and become more prepared for the rest of their lives.

If approved as written, the One Utah Service Fellowship would match students with state-approved non-profit and government service opportunities. Students who completed all 1,700 hours in one year would receive $7,400 to pay for educational expenses at a Title IV school or to pay off student loans. The funds would be a “last dollar” scholarship, meaning they can only be used after other scholarships and financial aid are exhausted. Students could use the funds over multiple semesters until exhausted, or until seven years had passed. Students who complete less than 1,700 hours would receive a prorated amount.