Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

October 11, 2012

Heinig: Let’s keep our promise to low-income Hoosiers

21st Century Scholar tweaks were poorly timed

Once in a while, our Indiana legislators blunder their way into legislation that not only helps Hoosiers but also gives Republicans and Democrats an opportunity to agree with each other! Those things are hard to find in our present political climate, where nonsense frequently outweighs common sense. However, when they do appear, we can usually depend on our lawmakers to tinker with them and totally screw them up!

The Twenty-first Century Scholars program is a good example. It was a great idea when it started back in 1990. Offering a full college scholarship to economically disadvantaged middle school students who earned good grades, behaved themselves, and didn’t abuse drugs was a huge step forward in our quest for equal opportunity, economic prosperity and social justice for all Hoosiers.

This program worked well for two decades. Then it began to cost too much, according to our dollar-conscious lawmakers. So they changed it. New participants will need better grades to get into the program and stay there. Also, they may only receive one-time grants or partial scholarships if their family incomes increase or if future legislatures don’t fully fund the program.

It’s entirely possible that future Indiana legislatures will be unwilling or unable to find enough money to completely pay for the program. On July 4, CNHI correspondent Maureen Hayden reported the annual cost had doubled in just four years to $46.5 million. The state paid that by transferring money from other scholarship funds designed to help low-income families. Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul!

Although the cost factor is a very serious consideration, the recent changes in the Twenty-first Century Scholars program are poorly timed and unwise. They are poorly timed because they limit training opportunities in a period of lingering unemployment. Yes, the job outlook is improving, but very slowly. The changes are also unwise because our youth need more training for 21st century jobs, not less. If they can’t get it here, they must seek it in other states.

When young Hoosiers leave Indiana for training, prospective employers will follow. They need a well-educated, highly skilled work force. They must find workers who can fill today’s jobs and also learn what they need to know for tomorrow’s jobs. If Indiana can’t provide such workers, new employers will not come here, and current employers will relocate.

The Twenty-first Century Scholars program is crucial to an especially vulnerable part of our youth. They struggle with economic challenges every day. Although they are eligible for Pell grants and student loans, many of them do not see a college degree as a realistic possibility. They may still need to work at part- or full-time jobs to help their families. Without a good education, their futures look bleak. They may be headed for a life of financial insecurity and permanent unemployment.

Critics of this program are quick to point out that most of the participants need more than four years to earn a college degree, and many do not do it in six years. So what? I know some very successful college graduates who needed more than six years to graduate. Even those who never finish can learn things that help them get good jobs and advance to better ones.

In the real-world economy, what you can actually do is ultimately more important than how long it took you to learn it. A few years ago, I did some admissions work for a well-respected junior college. My job was to talk to high school seniors about the opportunities the college offered. Most of those opportunities were technological. The demand was so great many students left to accept very good job offers before finishing their degrees. Who could call those students failures merely because they lacked a piece of paper?

Frankly, I do not envy the legislators who must decide how to continue the Twenty-first Century Scholars program. The need for it is immense, but so is the cost, and both are increasing. I don’t really know how to respond to this dilemma. As a school administrator, deciding how much money to give the students and the schools was never my responsibility. My job was deciding how to use the money that was provided.

I understand our legislators must make choices. Some of the choices aren’t easy. I just hope those choices do not prevent our economically disadvantaged kids from getting 21st century job skills.

* Mark Heinig Jr. of Kokomo is a retired Indiana teacher and principal and frequent contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at markjr1708@gmail.com.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • It's time to deal with crisis For five and a half years, the president has gone around Congress to ignore, defy and alter laws in a variety of areas, from Obamacare implementation to issuing excessive new labor and environmental rules to infringing on religious freedom. It is no

    August 21, 2014

  • Nation must be united On Aug. 9, unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, by a police officer. Since that time, protestors and unrest have filled the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, a town near St. Louis.A similar scenario

    August 21, 2014

  • John understands fight against mental illness Terre Haute native Tommy John understands all too well how the pain of depression can lead a talented entertainer like Robin Williams to commit suicide.Like Williams, John achieved national fame, posting 288 victories as a major league baseball pitch

    August 21, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor Former Kokomoan on FergusonI was a resident of Kokomo from 1992 to 2008. Because of the housing crisis, my wife and I relocated to the St. Louis, Missouri area, which is close to where I grew up. With the eyes of the world focused upon the St. Louis

    August 21, 2014

  • OPN - KT082014 - king What Fergusonsays about us Aug. 9 is a day that Americans lost sight of themselves. It is the day Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black teenager of Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, was shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. That evening, and for all but o

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Letters to the editor Congrats on wind farm defeat Congratulations to the citizens of Kokomo and Howard County! Your officials have done you a great favor by stopping any further considerations for construction of industrial wind turbines in your area. Now, if the fede

    August 20, 2014

  • Cleaning up voter rolls Citizens should expect the voting process for electing government representatives at all levels to be efficient and of the highest integrity. Indiana's system in recent years has at times been manipulated for political purposes -- the voter ID system

    August 20, 2014

  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: First Amendment assault in Ferguson

    Of all the outrageous and disturbing story lines emanating from Ferguson, Missouri, since unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, the targeting of journalists during the ensuing protests ranks among the most troubling.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Moped law long overdue We’ve all seen them on the streets, and their popularity is only growing. Mopeds have coasted in a legal grey area for years in Indiana. A lack of registration, testing and licensure allowed those without other means of transport to join other vehicl

    August 19, 2014

  • HAYDEN: Craft brewers and vintners returned sprits to Indiana State Fair Brad Hawkins felt right at home hawking his beer at the Indiana State Fairgrounds last week.When Hawkins opened his Salt Creek Brewery in a converted filling station in tiny Needmore three years ago, some tee-totaling neighbors protested he was putti

    August 19, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Tit for Tat? McDonald's Shuttered in Moscow Life on the Professional Video Game Circuit TX Gov Perry in Washington: 'Confident' in Case Hospital Releases Two Missionaries Who Had Ebola Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle NYC Doctor-in-chief Seeks Community Approach Indonesian Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters Raw: Shots Fired in Liberian Shantytown DOJ, Bank of America Reach Record Settlement Raw: Cubavision Airs Images of Fidel Castro Raw: Grief After Deadly Airstrikes in Gaza Officer Who Pointed Gun at Protesters Suspended Kathy Griffin Challenges Minaj to 'a Booty Off' Johnson: Six Arrests, No Tear Gas in Ferguson Raw: Rescue, Relief Efforts at Japan Landslide Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers Officer Who Pointed Gun at Protesters Suspended US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll