Governor Parnell wants to make a college education available to more Alaskans. He outlined today (Tuesday) a merit-based program that would pay as much as one hundred percent of tuition costs at any university or job-training center in the state. He told students at Anchorage’s West High School about what he sees as the Governor’s Performance Scholarship program.
You don’t need to be sharp for your own benefit. You need to be sharp for Alaska’s benefit. We need you to have your skills in tact and ready for the work force ahead.
The program would pay one hundred percent of tuition costs for every graduate with an A average, seventy five percent for those with a B average and fifty percent for those with a C-plus average. Those payments would go to students from any Alaska high school who has taken four years of math, language arts and science plus three years of social studies. They could attend any university or job training institution in the state.
He says the funds for the scholarships would come from the earnings of four-hundred million dollars to be set aside by the legislature in next year’s session.
Getting the program through the legislature might be a heavy task, though. House Finance Chair Mike Hawker says the announcement leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
Where exactly is this four hundred million coming from? Is he planning on setting aside money that is already set aside in the Constitutional Budget Reserve? I don’t know. I have a real concern that the legislature last year didn’t set aside the Billion dollars that we need to forward fund K-12 education anyway. We have to go back and come up with that money first this year. But what is an Alaska graduating student? Is it a student that spent four years in an Alaska high school or is it a student that transferred in a week before graduation? A huge number of questions that will have to be answered before we can make an intelligent decision.
Hawker says he will also wait to see what other priorities are on the legislature’s agenda for the session. For example, he says meeting the needs of south-central residents will have a much higher priority for him.
Parnell says that twenty-two other states have merit-based scholarship systems.