State needs to keep promises to students

(Bedford) Times-Mail

Lawmakers are facing a lesson in making sure their abilities keep pace with their intentions.

At issue is the 21st Century Scholars program. It promises low-income middle school students a full state college scholarship if they stay out of criminal trouble, don’t use drugs and get acceptable grades.

It’s seen as a great benefit. Many students — those in Lawrence County included — have been urged to take advantage of the program.

About 12,000 participate each year.

The next part is no surprise. The state is going to see a big jump in the cost. In fact, the cost will rise $54 million — about

45 percent — to $174 million next school year.

More students graduating from high school in 2015 and 2016 are eligible, in part because they may have enrolled as additional families were meeting income eligibility limits during the national recession, according to the Evansville Courier & Press.

“No matter what we do, because of the number of people we have grandfathered in, we got a little bump coming here that’s going to be a pretty severe problem,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville.

Lawmakers have changed the program in recent years, so the costs could eventually decline. Those adjustments include

requiring a higher high school grade-point average (2.5 instead of 2.0).

The state also evaluates a student’s financial means each year of college to determine whether they still need the scholarship.

The General Assembly also has the option to adjust the scholarship amount to the availability of state funding for students who enrolled the program after June 2011.

But for the meantime lawmakers must make sure Indiana keeps its promises to the students the program affects now.

This was distributed to Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.