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Legislature must alter Tulane scholarship program PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, May 21 2014 - 11:49 am

By: Houma Today

The Louisiana Legislature has a deal with Tulane University in New Orleans that dates back more than a century.

It has never served a true public purpose. Instead, it has served the narrow political interests of the lawmakers themselves.

The stated purpose of the scholarship program, which allows each legislator to award one full scholarship to Tulane each year, is to make sure students from throughout Louisiana get the chance to attend the prestigious university.

That purpose could much more easily be served if the university or some third party were in charge of publicizing the program and selecting deserving students to participate.

By allowing the process to be overseen by the legislators themselves, the program has rewarded them with a valuable prize that all too often has been bestowed on political supporters or other well-connected families.

Under Senate Bill 1, the program will undergo some modest changes that could result in more applicants.

However, it leaves the program in the hands of the legislators who will still be free to reward their allies with scholarships worth tens of thousands of dollars a year.

It is difficult to see the public purpose in allowing legislators control over this valuable program.

Instead, the university — which is in the best position to decide which students need and deserve financial assistance — should do it.

Unfortunately, the lawmakers don't want to part with what has become a valuable political perk.

Some lawmakers, though, have set a great example, the kind of thing that should be a model for how the program is to work if it is retained at all.

Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, has agreed to use Tulane's own Open Competition program to pick the recipient of his scholarship.

That is a welcome change.

Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, is using the Northshore Community Foundation to select his scholarship recipient.

There are plenty of resources out there for any lawmaker who has in mind the well-being of a deserving student rather than his or her own political reward.

The object of the scholarship program is to make it easier for students throughout the state to attend Tulane. With that in mind, there are many more effective ways than the current system. While there is no wholesale change on the horizon, the lawmakers can take it upon themselves to implement what is best for the students.

Let's hope more of them do.