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Parnell proposes state-funded scholarships for postsecondary education

October 6, 2009

Gov. Sean Parnell announced his proposal for increasing postsecondary education opportunites this morning at West High School in Anchorage. According to the press release, Parnell basically asked the state to pay for part or all of a student’s college or vocation tuition.

To be eligible for the “Governor’s Performance Scholarship,” students would have to earn at least a C+ average in high school, and take four years of language arts, math and science, and three years of social studies. The scholarships would cover between 25 and 100 percent of tuition, depending on a student’s high school GPA.

Parnell proposed funding the scholarships with earnings from $400 million invested in a new account, rather than as part of the regular budget each year. The invested money would come from the Constitutional Budget Reserve.

The proposal is far from a done deal. The legislature will probably have to approve the plan this spring. And it’s possible that they’ll combine elements of Parnell’s plan with other ideas. A bill currently in the House of Representatives proposes increasing aid to students based on a combination of need and merit. University of Alaska students have been lobbying for increased student aid for the last few years.

In the release, Parnell equated the investment in Alaskan students’ education with an investment in Alaska’s economy. Students would only be able to use the scholarships at certified colleges and training facilities in Alaska.

West High School wasn’t Parnell’s only stop today. He also talked about Alaska’s economy in UAF’s Davis Concert Hall. The event was hosted by Students Who Enjoy Economic Thinking and UAF’s School of Management. According to the UAF Sun Star’s twitter coverage, his talk touched on the GPS proposal. UAF student blogger Citizen Sig should have more on Parnell’s speech soon.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Ingrid Johnson permalink
    October 6, 2009 5:42 pm

    Wow! Sounds like a really great incentive for high school students. Would it be for just Alaska kids, or for students from all over the nation?
    Also, as one who studies policy, what do you see as being the cons of such a plan? (And maybe the pros, but I guess I see those as being fairly obvious.)

    • October 6, 2009 6:15 pm

      Just students who went to high school in Alaska.

      Well, I think grade inflation is already a major issue across the country, so I’m not certain that a grade-based (how much tuition is covered depends on a student’s high school GPA) is the greatest way to dole out money. But off the top of my head, I don’t know of a better system.

      Until there are more details, I’m not certain what I think of the proposal. Obviously, money for education is great, and it would probably be a good way to encourage high school students to continue their education. Is this the best way to do it? I don’t know.

      I’m curious to see the details of the system. What is the college/vocational GPA requirement. What if a C student in high school becomes an A student in college? What if an A student in high school becomes a C student in college? UA Scholars rewards students for their high school achievements, but should a second program focus only on high school performance? Grade-based systems also raise the question of how we view extracurriculars. Students work outside the classroom can be more productive than what they learn in a classroom, and contribute to more community development (AND personal growth), but is it discouraging that growth to focus only on grades? I’d also like to see the numbers fiscally.

      I don’t know if this was very helpful. I’m very happy to see the state move in a direction of supporting postsecondary education. I don’t know how this plan will work out. But I like that it’s a start.

      • Ingrid Johnson permalink
        October 6, 2009 6:20 pm

        Good points to take into consideration. Thank you!

      • October 6, 2009 11:17 pm

        No problem. As someone who knows more about AK high schools, what do you think about the idea?

  2. Sigilistic permalink
    October 6, 2009 11:35 pm

    Thanks for the plug, Molly! I did in fact blog about his speech today, and I agree with you that this isn’t really enough. I was both saddened and amused by one of the questioners during Q & A, who basically said “Well families can already use their PFD’s to put their kids through college…” Because, you know, we never, ever have to use our PFD’s for, oh say, medical bills, rent, or other necessities…

    Also, I am irked that I can’t upload the video of the high school speech he gave today. Apparently WordPress and Vimeo, which the governor uses to host his vids, don’t work together. I had to content myself with uploading the audio instead.


  3. Nicole permalink
    October 8, 2009 9:41 am

    A C+ average is not too much to ask for in an Alaskan high school, especially if the student is taking “normal” level classes (not honors or AP level). Any student serious about continuing their education past high school should have the bar set a little higher than a 2.5 GPA.

    As far as only being able to use the scholarship within the state – I suppose that is good news for students seeking a vocational education emphasizing oil and natural gas refinement/production, or perhaps a science based degree at UAF, etc., but it neglects to support a significant percentage of students who choose majors that aren’t offered within the UA system, or majors that are underfunded/underdeveloped. I may be a bit presumptuous by stating this, but our population isn’t large enough to even justify offering such a wide spectrum of majors.

    I have personal disagreements with scholarships being granded based on “need.” As far as I know, most high school students graduate with very little money saved, and no credit – that pretty much qualifies everyone as “needy” to me. Many of my closest friends (and myself included) have received little to no financial assistance from their parent(s), and we are further disadvantaged by scholarship and loan criteria being based upon their incomes. We should focus on moving postsecondary education and its financing in a more egalitarian direction.


  1. Sean Parnell unveils a new, merit-based scholarship « Citizen Sig
  2. Merit tuition scholarships? What do you think? « Polar Policy

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