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Re: “Happy Fifth

The base HOPE Scholarship is $4000. The Aspire supplement is $1500 which equals $5500. Qualifiers for the GAMS receive $5000. And I've read every annual report of the program since its inception. There were many items of interest that were left out of this story because they didn't fit the tone. If you want to say that legalized lotteries are bad for the poor, feel free. But don't equate that with scholarship money for Tennesseans being bad. This program is of vital financial importance to any Tennessean who wants to go to college. Quoting the 'maturity' line from the report is a bit off base. It is clear that what is meant by that is the first class to be eligible for the money all four years has been reached. Maturity of the program would be better measured years down the road. I don't think the University of Georgia or any of the lower tier public universities in that state (where a lottery scholarship program has existed for many years) would agree that the results viewed after their first five years are anywhere near what they see now. Check the admissions standards at Georgia and other public schools in that state and compare them with what they were five years into their lottery program. I assure you that they are now considerably higher. I'm having a hard time seeing something wrong with that.

Posted by Mark McClellan on 02/13/2009 at 4:35 PM

Re: “Happy Fifth

John - Your view of success of the HOPE Scholarship program is heavily skewed and conveniently overlooks some of the many benefits this program has brought to higher education in the state. First of all, to correct a factual error - the highest value of the scholarship is $5,500, not $5,000 as stated in your story. The HOPE program's main purpose was not to boost college access for only poor students. It's intent was threefold: 1) Make college access more affordable for ALL Tennessee residents who prove that they are academically ready for college; 2) Encourage more students to stay in state; and 3)Slowly increase the education level of the state which in the long run provides a stronger tax base. Has it succeeded? On the first point, the answer is yes. That is a no-brainer. If a student is receiving HOPE money then that is less student loan money or out-of-pocket money that has to be used. Since the cost of college has far outstripped the cost of living over the last 15 years in terms of increases, providing funds to all students regardless of income or ethnicity has become considerably more important with each passing year. Has it encouraged more students to stay in-state? The answer is yes. In-state enrollment is up. What you don't look at in your story is how many students initially leave the state, then return after a year or two because the lure of the HOPE Scholarship (for which they can still be elligible) looms larger and larger with each passing day of the suffering economy. Have private schools benefited? Absolutely. Have public schools benefited? Absolutely. Why does that matter? The key questions to ask are does the student benefit and, in the long term, does the state of Tennessee benefit? Which brings us to number three. That's an answer that can't be given yet. It will take considerably longer than five years to be able to answer that one. You should also not judge the success or failure of a program that has had only one full-benefit graduating class. The data is severly limited and only time will tell us the success or failure of this program. And, finally, you make the classic mistake of analyzing only one part of it's program. There is considerably more to the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarships than just HOPE. Your article does not mention the Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant, the newly revamped Non-traditional HOPE Scholarship, the Tennessee Access Grant or the other programs that are all funded with lottery money. If you are going to criticize a program, at least review it in its entirely before espousing an opinion. Thanks for your time.

Posted by Mark McClellan on 02/13/2009 at 12:56 PM


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