Parents missing out by not taking advantage of scholarship program

Monday, October 21, 2019

Uninformed or just too proud?

Either way, by not taking part in a program that ultimately could mean full tuition and fees paid for their child at any public university in Indiana, many Greencastle parents are missing the boat, school corporation and city officials agree.

Simply stated, the 21st Century Scholarship program makes those who meet free and reduced lunch guidelines during a student’s middle school years eligible for full tuition at any of the state’s public universities.

During a report to the Greencastle City Council at its October meeting, Greencastle School Board member Brian Cox said 21st Century Scholarship program participation “is something of a concern to the school board and the school corporation.”

Only about 30 percent of Greencastle families eligible for the scholarship program have taken advantage of it, Cox told the Council. Meanwhile, other Putnam County corporations are reportedly averaging 80-90 percent participation.

“We felt like our numbers weren’t where they needed to be,” Cox told the Council, “and quite frankly, it’s something we’re looking into and we’re really going to push harder this year to make sure that all families who qualify are signed up because it really can change peoples’ lives.”

Councilman Dave Murray, who has headed the National Center for College Costs for 20 years, wholeheartedly agreed.

“It’s basically a program that ensures that if you meet the free and reduced lunch guidelines in the middle school years, you are not guaranteed but each year it winds up being full tuition and mandatory fees at any public university in the state,” Murray explained. “Because a lot of these students have federal Pell Grant eligibility, that comes in on top to help with books, transportation and room-and-board expenses.

“So if you’re commuting from here to ISU or IUPUI, all that Pell Grant money comes back to you to help with transportation costs.”

Murray called it “absolutely essential” the school corporation gets eligible families signed up for the program to help further their children’s educations.

“It’s the difference between having an option after high school and not having a college option after high school for a lot of those eligible families,” the councilman added. “With the free and reduced lunch rate at 48 percent (in Greencastle schools), that means half of the Greencastle kids are eligible for this program, and we have to get them signed up. We just have to.”

Murray was pleased to hear Cox say the school corporation is attempting to address its low participation numbers. Consider the City Council in its corner.

Councilman Gary Lemon stressed that it definitely is a program “people should be taking advantage of.”

“Indiana’s at the cutting edge of this,” Lemon said, “and it is a great program. The first time I heard about it, I thought, ‘This is too good to be true.’ We need to get the word out that this is true and there is no Catch 22.”

Meanwhile, Cox assured that the school board and school corporation will be making a major effort to make parents aware of the program and its benefits. Council members encouraged that endeavor.

“We would like to have 100 percent (participation),” the school board member said, “but I think if we could get in the 90s, we’d be very happy with that number. I think we were probably down in the upper 20s to lower 30s this past year, so we’ve really got to get those numbers up.”

After all, it is Greencastle families and students who would benefit from renewed school board and corporation attention.

“It can make all the difference in the world,” Murray stressed. “Some families are too proud to sign up for free and reduced lunch. They’re too proud to sign up for this program, so you’re probably never going to get 100 percent. But we should be in the 80 to 90 percent range like a lot of the other schools in the county.”

Cox called the 21st Century Scholarship program “a life-changer for people.”

“So we take it very seriously and we’re working on it,” he added.

There’s no down side to signing up, Murray said.

However, sign-up must come by the end of a student’s eighth-grade year, making it a potential planning issue for some families who may not be looking that far ahead.

“If you don’t sign up by June 30 of your eighth-grade year, you can never sign up,” noted Greencastle School Supt. Jeff Hubble, who was in the audience for the Council meeting. “So we have to get our seventh- and eighth-grade parents to understand this is college. How many people are thinking about their kids’ college in seventh or eighth grade?”

Councilman Murray offered “a quick bit of history” about the program.

“This started in the Evan Bayh Administration,” he said. “The state grant program in Indiana is one of the most generous need-based grant programs in the United States.”

Cox told the Council he tells people to go talk to the guidance counselors at the middle school if they haven’t yet done that.

“It’s important,” he assured, “it really is.”

Murray agreed.

“There’s nothing to lose by applying,” he stressed.

Murray noted that there is another benefit to increased participation in the scholarship program.

“Another thing about this,” he added, “is it cuts down student loan debt or eliminates it altogether.”

Nationally student loan debt is at $1.4 trillion plus, Murray said, noting, “it’s more than all the credit card debt in the United States and more than all the auto loan debt.

“The only debt that’s higher than student loan debt,” he added, “is home mortgage debt, and we’re gaining on that.”

The 21st Century Scholarship program, Murray concluded, “is in response to the fact that student loan debt is through the roof.”

In addition to talking about the scholarship program, Cox also told the City Council that for the next six months, the school board will conduct a work session before each of its monthly board meetings.

Depending on the topic, those sessions will start between 5:30 and 6 p.m. the fourth Monday of each month (beginning at 7:30 p.m.) at the corporation offices off Mill Pond Lane (across from the middle school), he said.

Like regular board meetings, the work sessions are open to the public and will routinely cover one to two topics, Cox said.

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  • *

    TANSTAAFL: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

    This isn't free. Somebody is paying. Like me, through excessive taxes.

    So I am expected to pay for my kids' college AND for some other kids' college as well?

    And yet the socialists in the local government want you to believe that this is a good thing.

    Sure, its good for those receiving the benefit (free-to-them college). And its good for the colleges/universities (b/c they know their bill will be paid). And its even good for the politicians who reap the rewards of spending other people's money by retaining their place of power in the halls of government.

    Unfortunately its not good for the multitude of people like me who aren't on the public dole but have to pay for those who are all while having to budget our own money to make sure that it lasts the month. (A novel concept, apparently.)

    Maybe Dave Murray and all his DePauw cronies on the Common council should discuss the high cost of higher education with their beloved DePauw, as one small player in the-price-of-college drama.

    Student loans are one of the biggest reasons for the high price of a college education. Colleges/universities can charge whatever they want, promise too many people pie-in-the-sky futures, and then simply sit back as they rake in the money guaranteed by Federal government.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Tue, Oct 22, 2019, at 9:43 AM
  • Perhaps you would be willing to forfeit your Social Security and give it to these kids then, since its such a Socialist idea.

    I'm happy to pay.

    -- Posted by BJCP96 on Tue, Oct 22, 2019, at 10:11 AM
  • *

    Good for you, Sturgeon.

    Now, please share your address so that I can send my children's college tuition bills to you. (I will wait right here... unless perhaps you just like talking from your posterior orifice.)

    How many kids do you plan on bankrolling anyway? I have some friends that could use some of your assistance with tuition bills as well.

    Social security IS a socialist idea, if you wish to get into a technical discussion.

    However, if you are merely trying to be funny/cute/clever: you have failed (and failed badly) on all points b/c Social Security is not even close to the same thing as 21st Century Scholars. They aren't even in the same conversation.

    But thanks for playing.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Tue, Oct 22, 2019, at 12:47 PM
  • As a former Food Service Director at two different county school corporations, I would like to set the record straight. Free and reduced meals ARE NOT PAID FOR THRU YOUR TAX DOLLARS! Unless things have changed since I retired (which I don't think the have) the money for these meals are paid by overseas tariffs.

    -- Posted by interested party on Tue, Oct 22, 2019, at 2:14 PM
  • *

    Interested Party: I too would like to set the record straight.

    1) Free/reduced lunches are a program of the Federal government administered thru the USDA. It really has nothing to do with 21st Century Scholars (which is State funded) except that the State uses free/reduced lunch as a qualifier for who is eligible.

    2) Tariffs are an indirect tax. Tariffs are placed on goods coming into the country from outside the country. While the tariff is placed on the goods (and therefore the seller), the seller merely raises the cost to cover the tariff, which means the end consumer will ultimately pay that tariff.

    3)In 2015 the 21st Century Scholars program cost $120 Million a year. It was estimated to increase to over $174 Million a year over the next two years (2017).

    I haven't been able to quickly find a real number for costs as of 2019, but I can assure you that it will top $174 Million. It is likely over $200 Million now. Tax dollars.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Tue, Oct 22, 2019, at 3:57 PM
  • And if every child that had the opportunity to take advantage of this program did to the fullest, and graduated with a bachelor's degree then that is a tremendous boost to their income potential, greatly lowering the likelihood that they will follow in their parents' footsteps of needing to enroll their children in free or reduced lunch, thus lowering the burden on the local school system and state tax system, in turn taxpayers' burden of welfare contributions and all around raising the overall economy and tax base and making a positive contribution to society and more than likely insuring that their children will improve their educational and financial position as well. But go ahead and rant that you shouldn't contribute to the overall good of society. Just don't call 911, drive on our streets or expect your vegetables at a decent price, since farmers are subsidized by your taxes too.

    -- Posted by Javabeans on Tue, Oct 22, 2019, at 8:52 PM
  • I think dreadpirateroberts just needs a hug.

    -- Posted by Don Antonio on Tue, Oct 22, 2019, at 10:22 PM
  • An educated population is less likely to need your tax dollars, or turn to a life of crime when they can’t find a job. Education is one of the few places government actually *should* be sticking their gigantic nose.

    -- Posted by techphcy on Wed, Oct 23, 2019, at 1:39 AM
  • *

    Wow.

    I love how everyone has no problems spending MY money for something that the government has no business being in.

    It's a sad commentary on the state of things really. I am sure that most, if not all, of you would never consider walking into my home and stealing my stereo... yet b/c it is done through the government and not directly by you, you feel that it is perfectly acceptable to steal my money for the benefit of someone else.

    If you wish to start a PRIVATE charity that does the exact same thing that the State does with 21st Century Scholars, I will applaud you. I will even contribute. But don't tell me that its okay to force my participation in the benefit of another. That is slavery.

    Honeyroasted - please go sit in the corner with Sturgeon. You too are either failed cutesy or just ignorant. Either way it would take too much time and more effort than its worth to educate you. I suggest a trip to the library...maybe pick up a few things: U.S. Constitution; State of Indiana Constitution; maybe a few books on the founding of our country and what freedom and limited government really means.

    Don Antonio - I get too many hugs as it is, but thanks for the suggestion. I am sure that our falling away from the principles upon which this country was founded can all be fixed with a hug. You may go join the other two that need remedial education.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Wed, Oct 23, 2019, at 9:28 AM
  • dreadpirateroberts likes to pick and choose what "socialist" programs he endorses. If it doesn't benefit him then its a radical, Socialist agenda.

    Something also tells me he's a blast at parties!

    -- Posted by BJCP96 on Wed, Oct 23, 2019, at 12:35 PM
  • *

    Sturgeon - please tell me what "socialist" programs I endorse, b/c if you cant (and I don't think you can) then you are a liar and a slanderer. Put up or shut up.

    And yes, I am a blast at parties! You should see my impressions. I even do one of you...but at that point I am drunk to the point of incoherent mindlessness, mumbling nonsense, and generally looking pretty foolish.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Wed, Oct 23, 2019, at 1:53 PM
  • i see people are responding to others the way they want to be responded to.

    -- Posted by beg on Thu, Oct 24, 2019, at 7:51 AM
  • *

    I do - and always will - advocate for more freedom & less government.

    If any of you want to give every dime you make away to any cause you wish - you are free to do so. Its yours do with as you wish.

    But when you want to use the force of government to steal from me to support things that are not constitutional and things that I do not support - that is tantamount to slavery.

    Again - if its such a wonderful thing, why not a private charity? In the private sector even charity has competition and therefore must be as efficient as possible or the dollars go elsewhere.

    When government is the collector/distributor there is no competition. No need to be efficient. And it never is.

    I don't argue against the idea of 21st Century scholars as a charity.

    I argue against the idea that the government should be involved in it.

    But it seems that some people are so institutionalized by government - much like the inmate that cannot function outside the walls of prison - that they can no longer see freedom as anything attainable,worthwhile, or desirable.

    And that is really sad.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Thu, Oct 24, 2019, at 9:53 AM
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