The University of Wyoming will soon be offering a presidential-level scholarship to top high school graduates across the state, after a $500,000 gift from the Joe and Arlene Watt Foundation.

The gift will be used to create the Joe and Arlene Watt UW Presidential Scholarship, the first of its kind at UW, according to a UW news release. The scholarship will cover tuition for qualified students for up to four years.

“To be able to go out and approach these academically top-rated students and offer them a little better financial incentive -- it’s good for the university,” says Watt Foundation Director Bob Eberhart in a statement. “We thought that it might be an opportunity for the Watt Foundation to continue its support and help with that. We certainly want to invest in Wyoming students, and we want to show our support of the university. The university identified a weakness based on what they could support, and so it looks like it’s going to be a win for them, a win for us and a win for the students.”

Twenty students have been chosen to receive the inaugural UW Presidential Scholarship. To qualify, students need to score a 28 or higher on the ACT and have GPA of 3.5 or higher.

UW President Laurie Nichols said the gift would help UW recruit and retain some of Wyoming’s most promising students. Growing enrollment through student-centric enrollment management and enhancing recruitment and retention of students is a central component of the university’s new strategic plan, “Breaking Through: 2017-2022.” UW hopes to reach a target enrollment of 13,500 students by 2022.

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