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January 28, 2008 - Heather Ziegler
There is much discussion of late about West Virginia's Promise Scholarship. What started out as a dangling carrot in front of our children's faces has turned into a political hot potato. Most folks who are already involved or who have children who would like to be involved in the Promise have very strong feelings about it. For many families, it meant the difference between their children going to college or not going at all. For others, it meant their children would not leave school with loans totaling more than they paid for their family homes. I can tell you that the biggest lament I hear from young workers in just about any field is that they will be paying off students loans for the next 15 or 20 years. That's not easy to do making under $10 an hour in many of the job fields in this state. I have seen the job ads in this area and there aren't many opportunities that would allow a college grad to move out of their parents' home, pay off their student loans and eat at the same time. I'm not saying that the Promise is a God-given right, but once it was established, it seems there was no real commitment to fund it. Sadly, and yes I say sadly, the Promise scholarship has been so successful that our state lawmakers find it impossible to fund it to the same degree as the first year. It's a real Catch 22. If you change the funding mechanism and up the ante on test scores kids have to achieve to get the Promise, it tells the kids that once again the Promise is not for everyone who works hard to attain good grades -- just those who do better on tests. And if you want the kids to give back something other than four years of hard work in college, then you better have the jobs that allow them to live on their own and repay their college loans.
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