Monday, February 07, 2005

Maryland's Perennial Disgrace (washingtonpost.com)

From the Washington Post:

"LET'S SAY YOU have the good fortune to be elected a state senator in Maryland. Well, here's the first perk you need to know about: Over the course of your four-year term, you will be handed $552,000 in state scholarship money -- $138,000 a year -- which you may dole out to the college-bound children of your constituents nearly any way you like. Want to award four-year grants to the dimmest sons and daughters of your wealthy financial backers? Go right ahead! If you play your cards right and get reelected once or twice, chances are you will be able to grease the palms of a majority of the constituent families in your district. Members of the House of Delegates, too, control state scholarship funds, but in much smaller amounts than are available to senators -- about $31,000 a year."


I remember learning about this when I first moved to Maryland right after graduating from college. At the time, I thought PHEAA did an excellent job in providing grant money for PA college students. Since I was at an in-state public school, the grant money was very useful and it kept my debt burden very low.

I was appalled by this program in Maryland.

First, public money for "scholarship" programs is a bad idea - it's a bad investment of public funds. Even though they may have a high level of achievement and accomplishment, why should the public subsidize the education of children whose parents can afford (and will pay for) a college education? Need & merit is a much better criteria on which to judge the distribution of public "scholarship" funds. If I had to choose need OR merit, I'll still choose "NEED".

The real problem is, like the editorial goes on to describe, the awarding of these "scholarships" doesn't even have to be based on need or merit. They can be given to the kids of political supporters in your district - patronage and incumbent advantage rolled into one package. The Daley political machine never had anything this good.

The State of Maryland is doing its youngest voters a great disservice with this program and they really need to listen to Gov. Ehrlich and put the money into a general fund. Imagine that - I actually think the Republican has the better idea on how to manage a redistribution program. That should tell you how bad this Maryland "scholarship" program actually is.

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