Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Scholarships and Special Interests


In another amazing attempt to engineer society through government funding, the North Carolina House of Representatives took the first steps toward providing need-based scholarships to people who have worked at a minimum-wage job for 18 months. The proposed grants would reach as high as $12,500 (when Pell grants are included).

Described by Jay Schalin on the Pope Center site, the law was passed unanimously by the House (but the Senate didn’t take it up before adjourning). One attraction was that it doesn’t require “new” money — the scholarships would be funded by an existing state-lottery scholarship fund. However, the minimum-wage workers could squeeze out more productive recipients, since they would receive top priority for 5 percent of the fund, or about $1.8 million.

The idea that minimum-wage workers belong to a special, protected class that deserves an exclusive scholarship shows how unhinged government funding can get. (But then, it could be a bonanza for employers of minimum-wage workers: If you want a scholarship, don’t ask for a raise.) Apparently “scholarships for minimum-wage workers” makes a good sound bite, especially since most of the recipients are expected to be single mothers.

Furthermore, these scholarships for the poor provide cover for another legislative whopper on scholarships that is already law:

Yes, we may be in a deep recession and tax revenues may be in a free-fall, but the General Assembly is continuing to allow out-of-state scholarship students (mostly athletes) to attend University of North Carolina schools at in-state rates. This means that well-heeled boosters’ clubs and other donors of athletic scholarships pay only in-state tuition, not the full cost. The taxpayers must come up with the difference, about $10 million at all the university schools.

Doing something nice for minimum-wage workers — or at least talking about it — softens this display of political power.


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