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Saving scholarship plan requires a compromise

April 10, 2001

Saving scholarship plan requires a compromise



Funding for the PROMISE scholarship program, a top priority for West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise in the 2001 session of the state legislature, was not included in the $2.75 billion state budget bill passed Monday night.

The governor says if funding isn't restored, the legislature might have to remain in session past this Saturday, when its 60-day term is due to end. That's a course we don't recommend, unless the governor is ready for a compromise.

PROMISE was set up in 1999, but hasn't been funded since then. It was patterned after Georgia's HOPE program, which began in 1993, after creation of a state lottery to fund it. Since then, The Associated Press reports, 450,000 students have received $975 million in scholarship cash.

Both states' programs are aimed at students who earn a "B" average, a requirement some West Virginia lawmakers say is elitist because it targets students likely to get scholarship cash from other sources. Wise says, however, that the point of targeting "B" students is to get high schoolers to work harder.

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Both Wise and the legislature have the same general goal - to increase the number of West Virginians attending college. But Wise's proposal is suffering now because he didn't budget funds for higher-education changes - changes lawmakers had been working on for the previous two sessions.

If you're going to toss out something someone has worked on for two years, you'd better be able to convince them that you've got something superior. So far the governor hasn't done that, because he hasn't used his strongest argument.

Georgia officials say they have research that shows that 70 to 80 percent of those who attend college within a state stay there to find jobs or establish their own businesses. If Wise can tweak PROMISE so that it targets low-income students and make the case that PROMISE will create an educated generation that will stay and improve the state, he won't have to take the divisive step of keeping lawmakers in Charleston past Saturday.

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