Hats off to the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund for awarding $10.2 million in scholarships last month to 260 high-performing incoming freshmen at South Carolina’s colleges. That was on top of $11.2 million in similar scholarships of up to $10,000 a year for four years for another 279 students in 2021 and 2022.
The brainchild of Charleston philanthropists Ben and Kelly Navarro, this large private scholarship program is a godsend to students who might be kept from realizing college dreams because they couldn’t afford it. For others who planned to go anyway, the Meeting Street scholarships help them from having to sign away their financial future to burdens from huge loans.
Bottom line: The Meeting Street Scholarship Fund is making a real difference in young lives across the 11 counties it serves. And it aspires, through its new Mission 46 initiative, to build a donor network across the state to serve students throughout South Carolina. The benefit: about $85 million in scholarships a year.
And while we praise this initiative and other scholarship programs that are vital to boosting knowledge and preparing the nation’s future workforce, we’ve got to ask something else: Aren’t the very kind of scholarships offered by the Charleston-based private fund what the state’s education lottery is supposed to be funding?
So perhaps state lawmakers should take a look at the S.C. Education Lottery and see if it’s getting the best bang for its buck for all aspiring college students, but particularly for those with huge potential. Or maybe the lottery needs to fund a new kind of competitive scholarship to provide the college dream to more high-achieving students who need more extra help than the current structure allows.
In the current state budget, proceeds from the state education lottery will fund $589 million in education needs, including $201.2 million for the LIFE Scholarship for top students ($5,000 a year per student), $67.3 million for the Palmetto Fellows program ($7,500 a year), $80 million in need-based grants, $12.6 million for the SC HOPE program ($2,800 a year), $20 million in tuition grants, $93.7 million in workforce scholarships and grants, and $51 million in tuition assistance to technical colleges and two-year higher education programs.
All totaled according to the S.C. Education Lottery, the state’s cut of lottery spending has pumped $7.2 billion into state education programs since 2002, including $5.5 billion in college scholarships and grants and $1.1 billion in programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
After 21 years, it’s probably time to check to see how lottery scholarships and grant spending are faring and whether something new needs to be injected into the mix. The more high-achieving students who can get a chance at a college education without being saddled with decades of debt, the better. The Navarros figured that out. The state should too.
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