It's no secret--college is expensive. If you're a college student, chances are you've applied for a scholarship to help with college tuition. Many students work hard in high school to earn a scholarship to help foot the costly bill.
Tuition is even more expensive in South Carolina. Our state's college tuition is highest in the region and higher than the majority of states nationwide. With college tuition as high as it is, students often have to rely on scholarships for financial aid.
Lottery-funded scholarships like the HOPE and the LIFE scholarships were created to encourage students to seek higher education, and they are awarded to students who have worked hard to earn them.
In the 2018 fiscal year, almost $250 million was awarded to students through the merit-based HOPE and LIFE scholarships. That $250 million enabled many South Carolina students to attend college this year and motivated numbers of high school students, hoping to earn one of these scholarships, to do well in school. The HOPE and LIFE scholarships are sometimes the only source of funding for middle-class (and higher) families.
However, a new bill proposed last December might force students to look elsewhere for scholarship awards. Rep. Neal A. Collins from Easley is cosponsoring a bill that, if passed, will completely eliminate the HOPE and LIFE scholarships.
Rather than going towards the futures of students in our state, the millions of dollars will instead go to our state's public school teachers. More specifically, the money raised by the lottery will be redirected to pay off teachers' student debt and to pay for college students to earn education degrees for free.
The number of public school teachers in the state is steadily decreasing. Thousands of teachers are abandoning the profession, largely due to low salaries. Rather than implementing taxes as a solution, Rep. Collins sees the lottery fund as something that can be sacrificed. He claims that most scholarship recipients lose their scholarships in college anyway and that the money would be of better use to teachers in the state.
Collins hopes that, by redirecting the lottery funds to teachers, both teachers and students will continue to pursue a career in the teaching profession. He hopes that by sacrificing the HOPE and LIFE scholarships, the state will no longer be at risk of a teachers' strike.
Ultimately, this is a crucial decision that will have an extensive impact on our state. The question is simply this: Is eliminating the scholarships merely perpetuating the burden of student debt? Or, rather, is it redirecting wasted money and improving the financial situation of South Carolina teachers?
The choice the legislature faces is between supporting public school teachers and encouraging students to pursue a higher education. Both students and teachers in our state will anxiously anticipate what comes of Rep. Collins' bill.