Senate increases college scholarships for poor


ANNAPOLIS -- The Schaefer administration scored a minor victory yesterday, as the Senate passed a bill that seeks to increase college scholarships and grants for Maryland students from poor families.

But another administration bill that would have spent $19 million on a "Schools for Success Fund" was killed by the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore, hailed the full Senate's unanimous approval of the Scholarship Reform Act.

The measure establishes a special grant program for poor students, raises the annual scholarship a student can receive and creates a separate grant program for students who pledge to work in certain professions -- medical, occupational and physical therapy, nursing, teacher education, and child-care -- in Maryland. The bill is expected to increase the state's scholarship costs by $16.2 million over the next five years.

"It really takes care of the poorer students," Mr. Blount said. "It's really ideal. It's a good piece of legislation."

The Guaranteed Access Grant would cover 100 percent of a student's education costs if the student comes from a family whose income is $10,000 or less.

Educational Assistance Grants, also included in the bill, would be awarded to college students from low- to moderate-income households. These grants would range between $200 and $3,000.

The bill also raises the annual ceiling on senatorial scholarships from $29,500 to $34,500 per senator and the maximum single award from $1,500 to $2,000.

While the administration's scholarship bill will move to the House of Delegates for further debate, the much-touted "Schools for Success Fund" will have to wait.

The administration had proposed transferring $19 million from its "Action Planfor Educational Excellence" fund, known as APEX, to pay for initiatives to increase local school accountability and provide challenge grants and teacher training.

Last month, Gov. William Donald Schaefer made a personal appeal for the bill. But local educators strongly opposed the measure because it tampered with money earmarked for local programs.

Though the Senate committee killed the bill, it did designate that $3 million from the state Department of Education's budget be used to start the program. The committee expressly stated that the money must be used for developing student testing procedures, a system to manage student testing information and regional training centers.

Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-Baltimore, said committee members believed in the bill's concept but disapproved of the initial funding source.

"We didn't want them to take the money from APEX," she said. "Finding another source solved the problem."

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