CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A long-standing scholarship program named in honor of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd was quietly whittled out of the federal budget earlier this year, apparently because the late senator was no longer around to fight for it.
The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship was eliminated last month as part of budget negotiations between the White House and Congress.
Byrd, D-W.Va., founded the program, which provides students with an annual merit-based scholarship, in 1985 and fought hard to expand and protect it over the next 25 years.
When it began, the scholarship provided a one-time, $1,500 grant to selected high school seniors across the country.
In 1992, the program was expanded to provide the $1,500 for each of the four years the student was in college.
By last year, 28,000 students across the country - including 146 in West Virginia - were receiving the scholarship.
Over the years, Byrd touted the grant as one of the most effective ways to fund a student's education, because it required that they maintain good grades in college.
"The great thing about the grant is that it's based on how hard they study in the library and the lab," Byrd told a group of recipients in Shepherdstown in 1994.
Presidents repeatedly have tried to cut the program from the federal budget, but Byrd always managed to fend off those attempts.
In 2008, when President George W. Bush proposed cutting funding for the program, Byrd took him to task.
"The president has slammed the door to a college education in the faces of young Americans," Byrd said at the time.
"This president pays lip service to the importance of education and its impact on the future of our state and nation, but he will not invest the resources to back up his rhetoric."
President Barack Obama included funding for the program in his fiscal year 2010 budget. However, the Obama administration cut the funding in the 2011 budget.