When the Opportunity Scholarship was established, the Legislature specified in the statute that recipients must "Complete fifteen credit hours per semester. The student shall enroll in and complete at least fifteen credit hours of instruction in each consecutive spring and fall term." As the program has unfolded, the 15 credit hour requirement has continued to cause a number of unintended consequences including the need for students to complete unnecessary coursework or request an exemption from the executive director of the Board of Regents. To address this change, the 2010 Legislature modified the statute to read:
"Earn thirty credit hours prior to the beginning of the second year of instruction, sixty credit hours prior to the beginning of the third year of instruction, and ninety credit hours prior to the fourth year of instruction."
Rather than asking students to complete 15 credit hours during both the Fall and Spring semesters each year, credit hour benchmarks were established which would allow recipients greater flexibility in meeting the credit hour requirement. Beginning with the Fall 2010 semester, students must now complete the credit hours specified below to maintain eligibility into the equivalent year of the scholarship program:
30 Credit Hours -- Sophomores or those receiving 3rd and 4th term funding
60 Credit Hours -- Juniors or those receiving 5th and 6th term funding
90 Credit Hours -- Seniors or those receiving 7th and 8th term funding
If students have completed the credit hours specified for their term of eligibility in the Opportunity Scholarship program identified above, 15 credit hours is not necessary each semester as long as they have completed enough credit hours to meed the credit hour threshold for the forthcoming year. For example, if a sophomore in the program has completed 30 credit hours of coursework, then he/she is eligible to receive funding for their sophomore year. Credit hours can be earned during the fall, spring, and summer terms to then meed the 60 credit hour requirement needed to obtain funding for the Junior year (5th and 6th terms in the program). As long as students continue to maintain a 3.0 GPA at the start of each term, they will be able to maintain eligibility, and campus representatives will be responsible for monitoring that students have met the necessary credit hour threshold at the start of each year.
Because this change to the statute results in a dramatic shift in the way campus personnel are asked to monitor student credit hour completion, a number of Frequently Asked Question Responses have been prepared. For further inquiries, please contact the South Dakota Board of Regents.