I’m a laid back guy. It takes a lot to really get me going. I’m an issue by issue person. To quote my former Congressman (from Macon), “I go issue by issue and decide what I think is best”. Maybe slightly paraphrased (and oh yeah, his replacement took office today. I think he’s going to do a better job; especially at following through with that.)
That said, education is an issue that is very personal. As a first generation college student, it stands next to fiscal responsibility as the most important issue to me. Naturally, I’m very alarmed about the potential future of the HOPE Scholarship if it is not handled correctly during the coming session (after all, my kids will have to make it somehow when I’m still blogging and fishing my life away).
So…with that, I’m about to defend our future Governor again (sock puppets, rejoice). And in the process offer up some ideas of my own. Here’s what Governor-elect Deal said about the matter on Monday (more here):
“I think keeping it at the 3.0 is a reasonable standard. If we raise it too much higher than that, we really do cut out some of those very deserving students who work very hard and deserve the opportunity to go to college.”
”We’ve got to look at the allocation. Some would suggest that perhaps we need to decouple it from the tuition cost. Just fix an amount. There are many options that are on the table.”
So, our next Governor has begun to stake out his position and I can honestly say that I’m glad I’m not in his shoes on this one. Regardless of the outcome, our state leaders are, in some senses, damned on this issue one way or another. That said, I am behind him. Supporting the idea of changing the allocations in such a way that reduces the overall total of money a student gets from HOPE is painful for me to consider.
But it is the best option. Read below the fold to see why.
An income cap (suggested here by Sen. Robert Brown; he also proposed searching students’ rooms for white robes) does little but punish kids coming out of high school who can’t help how much their parents make each year. Are there certain advantages/disadvantages dependant upon location and school? Yes. Do they need to be fixed? YES. Is that the purpose of HOPE? No. It’s to reward students for academic excellence.
Which brings us to the whole notion of raising the standards. Say, raising the requirement from a 3.0 to a 3.2 can’t be that big of a deal, right? However, that’s easy to say for those on the outside looking in. This idea substantially overlooks students and their respective majors. Plain and simple, a Pre-Med, Biology, Chem, etc. (take your pick; all sciences are the devil) major will bust their tail time and time again but will (in most cases) never have a GPA near that of someone majoring in, I don’t know, Rec and Leisure Studies. It’s not right to stack the deck even further against them.
But Brandon, what about all those students who drop out of school for whatever reason and waste thousands of HOPE dollars? Simple, if you drop out of college within the first two years (I’m up for negotiation on that number), then you have to pay all of the money back. Unforseen circumstances certainly happen in many cases so an appeals system could definitely be set up for students who had emergencies, etc.
Setting a fixed amount and decoupling it from tuition cost (along with finding a way to deal with funds lost) is clearly the most logical direction to move towards. The other two proposed options clearly make valid points, but at the end of the day the two most important priorities here are the budget and the students. Governor-elect Deal’s position is on course for helping the budget while harming students in the least way possible.
I’m in his corner 100% on this one. Thoughts?