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Scholarships reward pupils, not rich or poor

POSTED: August 4, 2010 4:00 a.m.

This fiscal year, the expenses of funding the HOPE Scholarship, or Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally, will exceed the revenues from the lottery.

  

On Monday a joint meeting of the Senate and House Higher Education Committees started hearings to try to determine the best way to save HOPE Scholarships.

  

Because I am a member of the House Higher Education Committee, many self-styled experts in education have been writing to me and to the media expressing their views and opinions. Several groups testifying before the Joint Committees believe that HOPE needs to be “means tested.”

  

They suggest that any student whose family makes more that $75,000 per year should not get a HOPE Scholarship. With the number of B students increasing and the University System continuing to raise tuition, there is simply not enough money for all the scholarships.

  

Last week one of these “experts” sent me an e-mail suggesting HOPE money would be better spent making “high quality pre-K available to all 3 and 4 year olds” rather than in scholarships (University System of Georgia) and grants (technical colleges).

  

He also suggested that “Georgia is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars annually in lottery revenues to subsidize the tuition costs for middle and upper-income families who would have sent their children to college on their own expense, without a hand-out from the state.” 

  

He inferred that these families would be better off to accept tuition tax credits from the Federal Government rather than use HOPE funds from the Georgia Lottery.

  

He concluded with the statement: “The idea of eliminating unneeded welfare payments to the rich should appeal to true conservatives who are willing to put principle ahead of their own selfish interests.”

  

I am considered to be a conservative and that idea doesn’t appeal to me at all.

  

Just as the author of the e-mail is passionate about 3 and 4 year-olds having pre-K, I feel just as passionate that those who are willing to study and learn deserve HOPE Scholarships regardless of family income.

  

If a wealthy person pays into Social Security all of his working life, is he not entitled to draw a monthly check when he turns 67?

  

Yet, I have heard many liberals recently say that Social Security should be means tested. This is just another way of spreading the wealth, taking from those who work and giving to those who don’t.

  

I agree that Georgia is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars annually in lottery revenues, but not in subsidizing children of the wealthy. Georgia is wasting this money because high schools are not the filters they should be.

  

The shocking truth is that two-thirds of HOPE Scholarships are lost at the end of the first year of college because the students cannot maintain a B average. 

Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally is the key. Wealth or lack of wealth is not what is in question. What is in question is whether or not the student is outstanding.

  

Those students who did not maintain a B in college were not outstanding, they were simply average students, and the HOPE Scholarship program was not meant to provide free tuition to average students.

  

Many average students go to college and then lead very successful careers. 

 

The majority of these average students use more than one way to fund their college education. They use student loans, work part time, or get special scholarships. One of the best-known methods of funding college is through participation in the military programs at North Georgia College & State University, where both National Guard and Reserve scholarships are available.

  

As our HOPE meetings progress I will keep you informed on the recommendations the committees plan to make to the General Assembly.

  

The July/August issue of “State Legislatures” published the results of several surveys which I think might be of interest. 

  

Only two of three high school students graduate from high school, and half of the nation’s dropouts come from just 12 percent of the country’s high schools. 

  

Within these “lowest performing” high schools, only 60 percent or fewer freshmen progress to become seniors in three years.

  

One survey showed that the general public really lacks knowledge of our government. More high school students knew there were three Jonas brothers in the band than knew there were three branches of government. Only half of those between 14 and 31 knew that “the people select their representatives in a representative democracy.”

  

The good news is that education can help.  High school students who had taken a civics class were more knowledgeable about our system of representative democracy.

  

We are truly fortunate to have North Georgia College & State University in our area. It is one of the outstanding state universities in Georgia.

  

Its retention rate and on-time graduation rate rank at or near the top. We congratulate Dr. Potter, the school’s president, on its growth. The college has 5,800 students, including 800 cadets, enrolled for the fall semester.

   

Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 864-6589; e-mail hamerson@windstream.net.

 

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