Ramiro Rodriguez 10284891 Public Policy

Merit Based Scholarships College, when many high school students hear this word they think of either one of two things, I cannot afford college, or I am not smart enough to get into a university. A majority of the time students are smart enough but use tuition as a crutch to avoid higher education all together. The government has been helping with the costs of college tuition as far back as world war two, the G.I. bill was used to help pay for soldiers’ education that were returning home from serving their country. Now there are various other ways available to pay for a college education that range from grants, loans, and scholarships. The average debt a student can be in due to loans is around twenty-five thousand dollars, for this reason alone many students may wish to find other sources of payments for their education. Grants are mainly need based and if you do not meet the meet the government standards for being “needy” then you will not qualify for this type of assistance. Scholarships that are usually merit based do not cover the full amount of tuition and with the rising cost; there are still much expenditures of a college lifestyle that need to be paid. States then turned to a form of merit based scholarships that cover about the full tuition of higher education as long as the student goes to school in the state where they received their high school education. This type of scholarship has been under harsh criticism as of late because many individuals feel that this money is going to students that would already go to college, and is taking away from the need based community. The states must find some sort of balance in distributing money for merit and need based scholarships. With the economic crisis causing havoc in every aspect of our lives, it has finally managed to find its way to higher education. States are looking to cut these merit based programs largely in part due to their rapid increase in growth. The National

Ramiro Rodriguez 10284891 Public Policy

Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs found that merit grants accounted for $2.08 billion of state sponsored grants in the 2006-2007 academic year. In 1996-1997 school year it only accounted for $458.9 million which was about 15% of state grants. (Tomsho) In order for this to program to be salvaged, and thousands of students higher education to be continued their must be something done in order to maximize this program to its fullest potential. A prime example of how this enormous increase in funding is affecting states’ ability to keep the merit based program afloat is Florida. Their Bright Futures program is creating problems by artificially depressing tuition rates at Florida’s universities. (“Community College Weekly” 4-5) In other words it looks like the states’ money is staying in state, when in reality it is causing more state taxes to be diverted to the colleges and cap enrollment at popular universities. There are essentially two possibilities that need to be considered if these merit based programs are going to have a place in the future of higher education in America. One plan of action is that the state needs to set a limit on the income of the parents, if one parent is a surgeon and the other is an attorney there is really not a need for government assistance in helping to pay for their education. Frank Jaffee who was a freshman at Florida State University qualified for the states Bright Futures scholarship and had 75 percent of his tuition paid for. His father is a doctor and could have easily afforded the tuition set by Florida State. Frank even says it directly in an interview with a newspaper “Our family doesn’t really need it, but we certainly like it”. (Community College Weekly” 4-5) The last statement would come as a shock to many people, he essentially is saying that the state is handing them free money. His father alone makes over $135,000

Ramiro Rodriguez 10284891 Public Policy

dollars but yet the government is paying 75 percent of his $4,000 tuition. (http://www.payscale.com/) There is validity to the argument that a student should be rewarded for their hard work in high school, but their needs to be some sort of guidelines that these type of programs to follow. There are many students across the nation that fall right above the boundary set to qualify for need based financial aide but yet their parents to not make enough money to pay for their college tuition and support themselves as well. Many times these students are forced to take out student loans in order to help pay for their tuition, which can end up being expensive once they graduate. If the states decided to look at multiple factors when issuing these merit based scholarships, such as the total family income, along with amount of children the family has, along with how many of their children are in college or high school. If all three of these factors were taken into consideration, there then could be some sort of set number that could be used to find out which students are the most qualified for the states’ merit based scholarships. Recipients of this scholarship that are wealthy will of course fight to keep this program to not have any time of income restriction. They may argue that this type of program helps prevent brain-drain, by keeping many of that states’ brightest students in state and discourage going to an out of state university. (“Community College Weekly” 4- 5) In this being done, this helps the money stay in state rather than the parents spending money on out of state tuition. Proponents to keep merit based scholarships available to every citizen regardless of their familial income may state that this type of restructuring is punishing the students for having a high income. If a high and low income student both attain the same scores on the various qualification tests required to obtain these merit based scholarships and only the low income student is rewarded. There could be an

Ramiro Rodriguez 10284891 Public Policy

argument for the cases that the state is sending the wrong message to high school students. Both of these students strived to achieve the best grades they could in high school, and by only offering the student with the low income the merit based scholarship this is conveying the message that because of your socio-economic status you are not able to become a recipient for this type of financial aid. Individuals that support this type of program also feel that it encourages high school students to exceed what is of expected of them while attending high school. In addition to not only being able to achieve high grades and test score, the student in order to be eligible must also take part in a certain amount of community service. (“Community College Weekly” 4-5) This helps the student understand the importance of being a well-rounded person. With the merit based scholarships not being available to certain students, this would then lead to a decrease in the amount of community service being done. The income cap is only one of the solutions that merit based scholarships can be adjusted but still available for many students throughout America to use to finance a higher education. One other possibility that can be looked at in order to keep the budget for merit based scholarships under control is to implement strict standards for qualifications along with a limit for the amount of money that is given out. Georgia’s HOPE program generates most of its funds from the state lottery; with lottery revenues declining along with state budgets becoming smaller merit based scholarships may not be as generous as they were in recent years. In 2004 a bill was passed that amended the way that students GPA’s were calculated, which was done in order to make the scholarship harder to qualify for. It also implemented a cap that made the scholarship for payment of only four

Ramiro Rodriguez 10284891 Public Policy

years of college credits. (Supiano) The Bright Futures program in Florida also underwent some changes in order to keep their merit-based scholarships from losing the state money. The state is allowing Florida to charge more than the base rate to help them compensate for the state budget cuts they are undergoing. In addition the Bright Futures will pay a fixed amount per credit and not cover tuition at some universities in Florida. (Supiano) These two measures that Georgia and Florida are taking to better their merit scholarships are steps in the right direction. The state was giving away too much money for students that at times would fail to meet the standards to keep their scholarships in college. In 2002, around 58 percent of recipients at public universities in Georgia failed to adhere to the B average required to keep the financial aid. (Selingo) This is particularly alarming due to the fact that these students that were eligible for this scholarship were on an academic basis. Essentially, the students that dropped out are throwing away state money and there needs to be a better system that can identify the students that are the most deserving and will be able to maintain the grades in college. With the economic crisis that the nation is currently under, the states cannot afford to be putting money where they see no return on their investment. If a majority of these students kept their scholarship and attained a four year degree, then the state would see a return on their investment by having more educated citizens in their state’s workforce. This type of reform not only saves money for the state government in reducing the amount of scholarships that are given out but also ensures that the money is being put into the most deserving students in the states. Problems that may arise due to this type of stricter qualification of these scholarships is that individuals may feel that implementing higher test scores and setting monetary caps discriminates against certain races. Michigan is one

Ramiro Rodriguez 10284891 Public Policy

state in particular that sued the state alleging that by using a state achievement state in order to determine who is eligible, is unfairly discriminating against low income and minority students. (Selingo) In Georgia if an SAT score of 1000 had been necessary for the school year of the fall of 2000, 60 percent of the 2,000 black freshmen that received the HOPE scholarship would have been ineligible. (Supiano) This would have prevented over 1,000 African Americans from attending a public university in the state of Georgia. In addition to setting a cap on the amount of money that this type of scholarships payout, ,individuals may still find difficulty in trying to pay off the remaining balance left over from tuition. Other difficulties that the state government may have to in regard the cap is that many citizens of the state of Georgia are vehemently opposed to this type of restriction. A poll in Georgia in 2003 found that only about half of the people supported a cap of $66,000 or even up to $100,000. (Selingo) If any individual in the state legislature in Florida, Georgia or any other state where these type of programs are extremely popular decide to make adjustments to their merit based scholarship, they are basically planning their political death. This type of government assistance has become such a popular issue such as health care and social security that there are many citizens who feel such strongly about these programs that they would go to extreme lengths to ensure that they are not altered in any way. With an estimation of 96,766 students who receive this type of aide in Michigan, there would be a huge amount of furious citizens who feel that the state is taking away an excellent program unjustly. (Supiano) In order for this type of program to be saved and become more efficient, this type of solution would be an excellent way to regulate the amount of money the state gives out to its high school students. It not also helps to monitor the amount of money but assures the states that the funds they are

Ramiro Rodriguez 10284891 Public Policy

providing are going to help the student who are most eligible for this type of financial assistance. The most advantageous alternative to solving the rising costs of merit based scholarships would be to implement stricter tests scores along with a monetary cap that sets a specific amount that the family can make in order for the student to be eligible for this type of aid. This may be the most problematic solution due to the fact that it singles out the major flaws that are wrong with this system. Many recipients of this type of scholarship are children of wealthy parents such as doctors and lawyers. They would do all they can do to prevent this type of restriction from occurring. Their main point for not altering the program would be, how can the state punish their hard working high school students for their parents having a high education and a high income. But the answer to their question is in their argument, since they are more educated they should be able to show their children the importance of having a higher education without incentives to do well in high school. Their children should not need an additional boost to do well in school; they see the benefits of a having a quality education at home from the cars that their parents drive to the house they live in. Certain citizens that are not it favor of a familial income cap might feel that they are not receiving any return from this program, after all it is funded mainly by state lotteries which everybody is capable of paying for. However, there have also been studies that show a majority of people who play the lottery are at or below the poverty line. (Selingo) Therefore, they are the ones who are mainly funding this type of program yet students in high-income areas are receiving the bulk of the scholarships. Essentially the poor are paying for the wealthy’s education in

Ramiro Rodriguez 10284891 Public Policy

certain states. Also importance of having higher grades or higher ACT test scores to make the student eligible for merit based aide, is also of particular significance. If the student barely meets the requirements for these types of scholarships they will still receive the same amount of money as a student who is at the top of their class. There is a better chance that the student with the higher grade point average in high school will do better off in college. Basically, there are too many scholarships being given out to undeserving students and the system needs to be revised to find which students the scholarships will benefit the most. Revisions that may include a higher grade point average in high school or ACT test scores may garner strong opposition from certain parents. These parents may feel that higher ACT test scores unjustly discriminate against certain ethnic groups that historically have received lower scores on these tests. If the state is going to give away money that is paying for a full tuition at a university, they need to make sure that their recipients can handle a difficult test. After all college tests and curriculum are not easy and if a student has trouble on the ACT, it could be a sign of foreshadowing that they might have difficulty accomplishing tasks asked for them to complete in college. The problem that multiple states are facing is a difficult one; they need to try to find a solution to keep these merit-based scholarships. If nothing is done to monitor the way that they are given out, the states are either going to get rid of this program all together or have to find an alternate way to raise more funds. If there is some sort of system that puts the factors of familial income and stricter requirements together, this would help drastically lower the amount of scholarships being handed out. In addition to

Ramiro Rodriguez 10284891 Public Policy

making the program more effective it would also help to find the most needy and rewarding students in the state.

S e l i n g o , J e f f r e y. " H o p e Wa n e s f o r G e o r i g i a ' s M e r i t - B a s e d S ch ol arshi ps ." C hroni cl e of Hi gh er Ed u cat io n 5 0 .1 3 1 1 / 2 1 / 2 0 0 3 . n . p a g . A c a d e m i c S e a r c h C o m p l e t e . We b . 0 5 D e c 2010. (Selingo) S u p i a n o , B e c k y. " W i t h S t a t e B u d g e t s Ta n k i n g , C o s t o f M e r i t Bas ed S chol ars hips Get s a 2 nd Lo o k . " C hro ni cl e o f Hi g h er E d u c a t i o n 5 6 . 5 0 9 / 2 5 / 2 0 0 9 . A 2 7 - A 2 8 . A ca d e m i c S e a rc h C o m p l e t e . We b . 0 5 D e c 2 0 1 0 . (Supiano A27-A28) "Popular Bright Futures Penalize Needy Florida Students, C r i t i c s S a y. " C o m m u n i t y C o l l e g e We e k l y 2 1 . 3 0 9 / 2 2 / 2 0 0 8 . 4 - 5 . A c a d e m i c S e a r c h C o m p l e t e . We b . 0 5 D e c 2 0 1 0 . ( " C o m m u n i t y C o l l e g e We e k l y " 4 - 5 )

"Pay Scale." h t t p : / / w w w. p a y s c a l e . c o m / r e s e a r c h / U S / P e o p l e _ w i t h _ D o c t o r _ o f _ M e d i c i n e _ ( M D ) _ D e g r e e s / S a l a r y . P a y S c a l e , 1 2 / 0 5 / 2 0 1 0 . We b . 12 Dec 2010.

( " h t t p : / / w w w. p a ys c a l e . c o m / ) To m s h o , R o b e r t . " Wa l l S t r e e t J o u r n a l . " h t t p : / / o n l i n e . w s j . c o m / a r t i c l e / S B 1 2 3 1 8 0 7 3 2 4 6 11 7 5 6 6 9 . h t m l . D o w J o n e s a n d C o m p a n y, 0 1 / 1 3 / 2 0 0 9 . We b . 0 5 D e c 2 0 1 0 . ( To m s h o )