Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sincerity Would Be Appreciated

As you may remember from this past August, I blogged about attempts by the West Virginia state government to curb the costs of the Promise Scholarship. The merit-based scholarship, which pays full tuition to any public college, is projected to cost nearly $42 million a year by Fall 2008. The level of Promise scholars, however, will likely stay near 9,000. At the time of my posting, I urged the state government not to go back on the Promise by capping the award or changing its requirements. Sadly, they have taken the first perilous step off the cliff.

According to the Charleston Daily Mail, the PROMISE Scholarship Board voted 9-4 on Wednesday to recommend the legislature put a cap on the award amount. This is exactly what former state Senator Lloyd Jackson (who wrote the bill that created the scholarship) advised against. Another alternative that has been bandied about is raising ACT/SAT score requirements, but Sen. John Unger (D-Berkeley Co.) believes that would be unfair to lower-income students.
"There's this idea that because you're low income, or because you come from a low-income family, that you can't meet higher educational standards...And I think that's a false statement. You can't tell kids that." (Source: Daily Mail)

Wow. Who would have guessed that this would devolve into some kind of a class-based argument? All the time, I hear people (usually Democrats, but not always) complain about how unfair standardized tests are to minorities and the poor. If you really want to increase the requirements, which I personally don't see the sense in doing, then why don't you just raise the GPA bar by 0.1? I've never heard anyone complain that requesting higher grades would be unfair to these people. The controversy around the real fairness of the ACTs and SATs won't be going away any time soon, but I have yet to see an even mildly effective argument be made against asking for better grades. If I absolutely had to put a revision on Promise, that is what I would do.

That said, I cannot see why in the world Promise needs any adjusting. As I mentioned in my first post, Promise is funded by the state video lottery, which was a billion-dollar industry last year. Why is this not getting press?!? Some are trying to say that costs will rise as tuition goes up, but I say that gambling revenues will increase right along with it as new "grey machines" are installed and as venues like the Charles Town Races get bigger.

Most in-state college students like myself might not care about this very much, as most agree that these changes should take effect with the next class of high school freshmen. Problem: This will still affect the state in the long run. WVU is finally starting to get recognition for its academics over its party atmosphere, and it's largely thanks to the influx of those ever-studious Promise scholars. Unger said he would also like to see Promise graduates have to "pay back" their earnings by working in-state, but this plan ignores the other benefits that the Promise has produced on the actual campuses. Here's a concept: WVU is getting so much favorable recognition that out-of-state residents are starting to flock here. Should they settle down in this area after college, that would be a huge boost to our economic growth. More state residents=more taxpayers=more money. Even for a tax relief-loving Republican like myself, that's a very simple equation.

I've made my point nicely, but since this is an issue that gets me fired up, I'm now going to skip pleasantries and go right for the throat. With all due respect to you Sen. Unger, if you or any of your colleagues - Dems, Repubs, or otherwise - go through with capping the Promise, I will vote you out of office. Before you protest that I can't, Sen. Unger, not only do I live in your district, but I also vote in it. Should Gov. Joe Manchin approve such a cap, I will do the same for him. To that end, I will actively campaign for the removal of all offending parties both on this blog and off. Trust me, I am not alone in this.

This is not a partisan issue. I believe that a cap on this award will be hurtful to our great state in the long run. As a voter, I will act in the interest of the state and of its people. As for our legislators, who would represent the desire of the public, I suggest you do the same.


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