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State Help For Students May Turn More To Need

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William Cote LANSING- State education officials are resisting suggestions to dump the competitive scholarship and tuition grant programs in favor of general grants-inaid. At the same time, though, the State Board of Education' is endorsing recommendations to establish a "general tuition opportunity awards program" for disadvantaged students and a direct state loan program to supplement the existing guaranteed-loan plan. What it boils down to- if the recommendations are put into law by the legislature- is that many more students would be able to get either a low-interest loan or an outright grant without meeting as many financial-needs or academie qualifieations. One risk in that approach, some educators acknowledge privately, is that more students with less academie ability are likely to enter such programs and it's likely that more students would fail to pay back any loans. Perhaps of some concern to the taxpayer is that expansión into the new programs also would considerably boost costs. The possible advantages, on the other hand, are that direct grants to disadvantaged students and direct state loans would open academie opportunities to financially needy youth who cannot now get state or federal aid because of arbitrary limits or poor training. Michigan's nationally recognized student-aid system began in 1964 when , the legislature created the state competitive scholarship program to pro vide finaneial aid to the "highest academically qualiíied sfudenfS" wüh íinañcial need to attend public colleges. Private colleges contended that they, too, should be made more financially ac' cessible to students who would rather attend their institutions than the public schools. A "tuition grant program" thus was created by the legislature in 1966, with a maximum grant of $800 per year available to a student to attend a private college in Michigan. Both existing programs have been hugely successful, under almost any measurement. For example, the Michigan Higher Education Assistance Authority (which supervises the aid) notes that during each of the past several years some 40,000 students have competed in the statewide scholarship exams About 4,000 to 6,000 students got cash awards from the competition, while others received certificates showing their high scholastic achievements. One of the problems which has bothered educators is that only a small percentage of the scholarship awards went to minority-group students. "This fact," an Assistance Authoritv analysis stated, ''ís attributable to ihe' nature of the scholarship program with its emphasis upon scholastic achievement. Statewide, the vast percentage of minority group students are found in large urban areas and in these areas, the high school academie level is generally below that of schools in other areas." To meet that situation, the Assistance Authonty and the State Board are planning changes in scholarship rules to guarantee a minimum number of awards to each high school in the state. However, in the tuition-grant program State Board Treasurer Thomas J. Brennan, D-Dearborn, said he was pleased to note that 16 per cent of the awards went to minority -group students, while the total minority-group enrollment in colleges is only 6 per cent. "That's a good sign for the concept of a duality of education," said Breiman long a supporter of more aid for nonpublic education. "That's so, but it also causes some I nancial problems for the private colleges because they have to piek up more than the cost of tuition for needy minoritygroup students," said Wesley Baker of Dearborn, vice chairman of the 1 tance Authority. One help for both the public and private schools, is that the authority and the SBE have urged legislation to raise the maximum scholarship and tuitiongrant awards from $800 to $1,000 a year In addition to the tuition-grant and scholarship programs, another existing aid for students is the guaranteed-loan program, in which the state guarantees repayment of loans by students from regular financial lending institutions. All those programs, however, are still failing to meet the needs of thousands of deserving students, the SBE concluded. The Assistance Authority, though recommended against the idea which had floated around to substitute a general grant-in-aid program based primarily on financial need. Even without any general grant program, it still appears the pressure will be on the State Board and legislators to play down scholastic ability in favor of financial need of the disadvantaged.