FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education estimates more than 6,000 more students will be eligible for state lottery scholarships like the Life and Hope under the new 10-point grading scale. Some lawmakers, though, think that money should go to help ailing schools instead of college scholarships.
The commission estimates those 6,000 new scholarships could cost taxpayers as much as $50 million. State Representative Terry Alexander doesn’t think more scholarships is the best use of the taxpayers’ money–especially when so many South Carolina schools need help right now.
“I thought years ago when we got into this lottery business that it was gonna help public education,” Alexander said.
The extra scholarships are all thanks to the switch this school year from the old seven-point grading scale to a new 10-point grading scale. In addition to the extra Life and Hope scholarships that the state will pay out, the Commission on Higher Education estimates more than 300 more students will qualify for the $7,500 Palmetto Fellows Scholarship.
“The kids that are really in need are these poor school districts,” said Rep. Alexander.
Alexander said he wants to see some of that money go back to the schools, to improve education for current students.
“I’m hoping and praying that we can come up with some type of structure some type of process where everybody benefits,” he explained. “Those that are going to college and those that are pursuing education in the secondary school system basically and I think that’s where we need a lot of monies as well.”
“We really feel like this is a good time to look at the requirements and adjust them as needed,” said Ryan Brown, spokesman for the SC Department of Education.
Brown explained a proviso in the state budget directs the State Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Ed to study the long-term impacts of more scholarships on taxpayers’ wallets.
He said students could see changes to the grade requirements for Hope and Life scholarships as early as next year.
“We could make the change cost-neutral just by raising the GPA requirements to put them more in line with the 10-point scale,” Brown said.
Rep. Alexander said he hopes changing the requirements means more money for ailing schools.
“The courts have already said, we’re not doing what we should be doing for kids in these poor school districts and the state really needs to take a look at it,” he said.
Brown told News 13 that the Commission’s report on the new grading scale’s effect on scholarships should be completed before the end of this year.