Only 2 months ago, we started a lottery here in the Volunteer State. The proceeds are required by our constitution to benefit education, and there was general agreement on the priority of college scholarships, but arguments were thick in the days leading up to its implementation over how exactly the money would be distributed. There was a shocking level of resistance to using lottery money for need-based scholarships, and we decided instead on a system that is almost entirely "merit-based." As a result, we are, indeed, going to keep some smart, capable kids in state (it will even benefit private schools like Belmont), but other kids who qualify for acceptance to a University may still be denied the scholarship monies if their test scores and grades aren't high enough to meet the lottery-scolarship threshold.
It's a parallel to the trend I clumsily wrote about earlier, as government uses funding for highly important programs as incentive for performance, rather than as part of a measure of how much need there is for it. If the lottery money was ear-marked for giving kids a free vacation to Daytona Beach or a backpacking month in Spain, then I'd agree that using it as a reward for performance makes plenty sense. But college education is virtually essential these days isn't it?
On a related note, and the reason for this post, yesterday Robert Reich commented on this growing chasm in scholarship money for low-middle-income families, and identifies a primary culprit. If you pay for, or participate in, higher education, or will...read this.
"Private universities are paying out about $4 in scholarships for every $10 they take in as tuition revenue, but two-thirds of this aid is based on test scores and grades—not on need. Public universities are following the same trend.I agree.
The reason is, universities are competing for academic stars. Competitive rankings in college guides are based largely on the grades and test scores of entering freshmen. High rankings help universities attract more and better applicants—and more donations. So, increasingly, universities are using merit scholarships to lure high school seniors with the highest grades and test scores. This means less scholarship aid for qualified applicants who need the money in order to attend.
At a time when the gap between America's have-mores and have-lesses is wider than it's been in a century, and when college is the gateway to upward mobility, we should be making it easier for kids of modest means to get a university degree. Instead, it's becoming harder. And that's a national shame."