Hathaway funding is now within reach for many students in Wyoming’s career and technical education fields.
In early 2019, the Legislature passed the Hathaway Scholarship Eligibility Act, which allows students more options for meeting the Hathaway elective requirements. Through early October, the Wyoming Department of Education collected public comment on proposed revisions to the Hathaway Success Curriculum, which students are required to take in order to earn a Hathaway Scholarship. The WDE’s proposed rules reflect provisions designed to accommodate the new law, which called for modification of portions of the Hathaway Scholarship program eligibility requirements.
“The law does offer students greater flexibility to follow their interests by taking more career and technical education (CTE) courses, if desired,” said Michelle Panos, communications director for the Wyoming Department of Education.
CTE encompasses a wide range of subjects, like coding, hospitality, marketing, business and construction.
Prior to the new law, students were required to complete two years of a foreign language in sequence, plus two years of either fine arts, career and technical education or additional foreign language, in order to qualify for an Honors or Performance Scholarship awarded through the Hathaway program, according to the WDE. Now, students must complete four years total of foreign language, fine and performing arts or career and technical education. Students must take at least two years of related courses in sequence. In addition, one year of high school coursework taken prior to high school may satisfy one year of the four-year requirement.
For 2019 and 2020 high school graduates, students can take either the current Success Curriculum or the new amended curriculum. The new Success Curriculum will take full effect in the 2021 school year.
According to Panos, coding courses don’t meet the foreign language requirement, but the new legislation will allow students to complete the CTE requirement with coding courses and meet the requirements of the honor and performance levels.
“The changes will emphasize a sequential focus within one of the 16 career clusters, or fine and performing arts or foreign language,” Panos explained. “Previously, Hathaway required two sequenced years of foreign language. The changes eliminate the foreign language requirement.”
Rob Hill with the Wyoming Association for Career and Technical Education said he fully supports the changes, and, in fact, advocated for them at the Legislature. Students who focus in CTE excel at the next level, be it postsecondary education or entry into the workforce, he said.
“The recent changes in the Hathaway Scholarship allow our CTE students to access the same levels of monetary support while advancing their education in an area they desire,” he said.
At the same time, maintaining the high-bar measures of ACT scores and grade-point average preserve the integrity of the scholarship while aligning to the needs of Wyoming businesses.
“We listened closely to our business and industry partners, and they have stressed the importance of high-impact CTE programs in expanding our economy,” Hill said.
State Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, said there was a time decades ago when there was a distinction between “headwork“ and “handwork.”
“Those days are long gone. Technical careers today require a high level of education and sophistication, on a par equally demanding with the traditional college track,” he said. “As a nation, we’re overdue in recognizing that the skilled trades are of equal merit with other career paths, and are not necessarily exclusive.”
It’s a misconception that CTE students are not college-bound, Hill added.
“In reality, the programs offered in our high schools almost always align to a postsecondary degree,” he said. “We have business classes in accounting, marketing and finance. STEM, computer science, tourism, engineering, construction management and agribusiness are all examples of CTE programs of study. In today’s market, CTE students are well positioned to advance their area of interest at one of our postsecondary institutions in Wyoming.”
The Wyoming CTE community also strongly supports the opportunity for its CTE students to advance their education through apprenticeships, industry training, certifications or postsecondary degrees, Hill said.
“We live in a world highly technical in nature,” Hill said. “For our Wyoming students to be marketable in an economy that demands high-skilled training, students need exposure and emphasis in career and technical education.”