CHEYENNE — On Friday Gov. Mark Gordon signed the Hathaway Scholarship Eligibility act.

The legislation allows Wyoming students interested in studying career and technical classes in high school to more readily qualify for the Hathaway Scholarship. Senate File 43 changes foreign language requirements included in the Hathaway Scholarship program that are currently applied to students who receive the two highest levels of funding available.

Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, first introduced similar legislation in the prior legislative session. That bill received approval in the Senate and moved on to the House, but ultimately failed because of the short legislative session.

This year, SF43 was sponsored by the Joint Education Committee.

“The key to the bill is that it gives greater flexibility to high school students in selecting courses, including technical courses, while still qualifying for the Hathaway,” Kinskey said. “And sponsorship by the Joint Education Committee is what really helped put this over the top.”

The bill is important for every career-minded student who has had to drop courses related to their passion for career technical education in order to pursue Hathaway funding, Kinskey said.

“The traditional college requirements of the Hathaway caused enrollment in career and technical education programs to drop dramatically,” he said. “This will rectify that error.”

Previously, students who wanted to receive the top two tiers of Hathaway funding were required to take two years of a foreign language in a row, but the bill allows students in ninth through 12th grades to take three years of one elective: career and vocational education, performing arts or foreign language.

“The foreign language requirement has created issues for our students,” Wyoming Association of Career and Technical Education President Rob Hill said.

Hill explained that students in his construction programs need to take certain courses in sequence: For example, Construction One, Two and Three.

“When you add the foreign language requirement and the district requirements, it made it virtually impossible for kids to get through our CTE classes,” Hill said. “That has had a drastic impact on our workforce. It went down about 34 percent in 10 years … and it has contributed to a skills gap in our state.”

The change in legislation means all Wyoming students, regardless of career path, can access Hathaway funding, Hill said. His students, just like any other, are university and college bound, headed for high-demand, high-skill jobs.

“Wyoming business people and industry have been desperately asking for this too,” Hill said.

He continued that Kinskey has offered “unswerving loyalty to career and technical education.”

“He spent a great deal of the summer with us, talking about it, and we learned a lot about economic development from him,” Hill said. “He worked tirelessly with us on this. He has been a guiding force in helping us with this.”