Friday, June 5, 2009

Making it Tougher for Michigan's College Students

Elected representatives ordinarily can be expected to advocate on behalf of their local constituents. Once in a while, they even rise above local politics to work on something that will benefit a broader area, such as the county, the region, or the state they serve.

Then there are those politicians who, inexplicably, do stupid things that do not benefit anyone.

Say hello to Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, a Democrat from Washtenaw County. On June 3, she introduced a bill into the Michigan House of Representatives that is so ocntrary to common sense that merely to state its content is to ridicule it.

First, a little background. The Michigan Competitive Scholarship program awards scholarships to students pursuing their first degrees at approved Michigan postsecondary institutions. Students must demonstrate both financial need and merit, and eligible applicants must achieve a qualifying ACT score prior to entering ocllege. The scholarships are awarded to three or more students in each legislative district.

Good idea, right? Helps kids who need the money and have demonstrated the ability to succeed in college. What could be more appropriate?

Rep. Smith obviously has a different idea. On June 3, she introduced HB 5039, which would prohibit any Michigan competitive scholarship from being awarded this year or at any time in the future. Why? What could possibly justify this move? I called Rep. Smith's office to ask, but there was no answer.

With the economy reeling, we need to make sure our foundations are sound. Our taxing and spending has to create and foster an entrepreneurial environment, and our educational system must encourage performance at a high level for all our citizens.

The Michigan competitive scholarship is a small part of the education effort, but it sends an important signal -- we are committed to helping those who need the help but who have also demonstrated the ability. Perhaps Rep. Smith objects to the merit requirement? We may never know, but that would be consistent with another change she proposed, one which really makes no sense.

The current law denies scholarship funds to persons who are incarcerated. HB 5039 takes this away, such that persons residing in our state prisons would be eligible for the scholarships. This is bad, but it's also nonsensical since the same bill eliminates the scholarships altogether, so why make prisoners eligible for them?

What puts the frosting on the cake is the fact that Rep. Smith's district includes Eastern Michigan University (The Wiz's undergraduate alma mater). Why would someone representing a university introduce a bill to eliminate college scholarships for financially needy, well-deserving students? Who benefits from this bill?

HB 5039, where the nonsensical meets the inexplicable.

1 comment:

  1. Alma Wheeler - meet Alma Mater - I don't think you've met!