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Scholarship funding proposal would have residents pay at the pump

Published: Jan. 14, 2015 at 10:01 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 11, 2015 at 10:01 PM CST
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A proposed 4-cent gas tax, group leaders said, would help pay for tuition-only scholarships...
A proposed 4-cent gas tax, group leaders said, would help pay for tuition-only scholarships good at UNA. (Source: WAFF)

FLORENCE, AL (WAFF) - Giving students a chance at higher education could potentially cost Shoals residents more at the pumps.

The Shoals Scholar Dollar program has proposed a gas tax to help fund their mission.

The proposal is for a 4-cent gas tax.

Right now, the organization is on the verge of expanding their funding to include tuition at the University of North Alabama, but they are in search of a continuous stream of funding to keep these scholarships available.

"We have looked at Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi," said the program's Executive Director, Dr. Randy Pettus. "All three states have a public-funded two year scholarship; Georgia has four-year."

Alabama has none.

That's where the Shoals Scholar Dollar Program comes in.

The organization provides two-year tuition-only scholarships to Northwest Shoals Community College.

The scholarships are offered to students in both Lauderdale and Colbert Counties who don't qualify for financial help.

"Last year we had 495 young men and women who graduated last year that did not get offered any scholarship anywhere, and wanted to go to college. After we helped them find Pell grants, we dropped that number to 141."

The organization wants to add UNA as a choice location, but that would bring their annual costs from $600,000 a year to about $2.5-million.

Insert the gas tax proposal.

"That would generate about $3 million a year, and the operating cost to be able to include UNA," Pettus said.

Dr. Pettus says nothing is off the table, and they are constantly looking at ways to fund the scholarships.

He says it's vital for the community to give students hope and help keep this project alive.

"It's vital; this is a workforce development project, it's an economic workforce development project," he said. "We are turning out workers for the factories in the companies right here in the Shoals area that need workers."

Again, this is just a proposal that was made to both Colbert and Lauderdale County Commissions.

Any new fuel tax would have to be approved by the state legislature and voted on by county residents.

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