Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Free ride indeed

What did Governor Doyle expect?

After announcing the Wisconsin Covenant, a program designed to offer financial aid to high achieving students 
attending an in-state public institution, parents anticipated a free ride. 

The Covenant is a perfect example of a government program with lofty
promises that cannot be kept, especially during a downturn in the economy.

Other states also have merit-based scholarship programs similar to the Wisconsin Covenant and are considering major changes.

Georgia’s program, called HOPE, was the first of its kind in the nation when it began during 1993. reports, “The program, funded by proceeds from a state lottery, became instantly popular. Bright students, who otherwise might have left Georgia for colleges in other states, instead stayed home to claim a free ride. (Flat-rate awards of $1,750 per semester are available to attend private schools in Georgia.) More than a dozen states, from Florida to New Mexico, followed Georgia's lead by setting up merit-based scholarship programs of their own.”

That was then. Several problems are forcing Georgia officials to return to the blackboard:

The struggling economy

Reduced lottery proceeds that fund HOPE

Rising tuition costs

Booming enrollments

The result
is Georgia’s HOPE cannot live up to its promises. To accommodate all applicants, Georgia must dip into a reserve account for the first time that will go dry in two years without modifications to the program.

States like Georgia that have financial aid programs facing uncertainties have alternatives:

Cut the scholarship amounts

Cut the number of students eligible

Increase academic standards for eligibility

Put an income limit on those eligible

None of the options would be popular.

The first round of Wisconsin Covenant students are scheduled to attend class in the fall of 2011. Wisconsin’s program has yet to begin and it already has had to scale back. Again, what did proponents think would happen?

Wisconsin is not alone. Read more from Stateline.

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