May 11, 2011

Blog: Scholarship cuts add fuel to petition drive

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If opponents of in-state tuition for immigrants needed any more ammunition for their petition drive, it was on the front page of the Sun Wednesday, below the story about the signing of the tuition bill.

The article documents one of the little publicized cuts in the budget proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley and passed by the General Assembly: the elimination of the Distinguished Scholar Program that would have provided $1.1 million to the best and brightest Maryland students graduating this year. Students who have already made commitments to schools are just learning now that they are losing a $3,000 scholarship award that was based on high grades and national tests, not on financial need.

According to the 90-Day Report by the Department of Legislative Services (page L-17), no new scholarships will be awarded and the program will be eliminated by 2015. It was originally created to keep the top performing graduates of Maryland high schools in the state, preventing a brain drain.

So at the same time the legislature is offering discounted in-county rates for community college tuition to high school graduates brought to this country illegally, it is cutting scholarship aid to the state’s best and brightest. This is part of an overall cut of $1.7 million in scholarship aid administered by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, a 1.6% reduction.

The fiscal note prepared by the Department of Legislative Services, the research arm of General Assembly, said that state expenses for undocumented high school graduates could go up to $778,000 in fiscal 2014 and rise to $3.5 million in fiscal 2016. But a March 14 article on MarylandReporter.com found the cost of offering in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants might be significantly higher than estimates, since they were based only on figures from Montgomery College and none of the other community colleges.

On Tuesday, several supporters said granting aid to undocumented students was “just” and “fair.”

We all know that the state budget needed to be cut, and some of the cuts would seem unfair. But cutting aid to Maryland’s best students while costs are being added for students brought here illegally — and regardless of academic performance — seems one of the unfairest cuts of all.

–Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com