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Bill would require colleges to publish scholarship criteria

When Derek Davis’ daughter applied to Arizona State University, she was told that she wasn’t eligible for the university’s most lucrative merit-based scholarship because she had been homeschooled.

Davis said his daughter should have been evaluated on her test scores and grades, rather than the fact that she was not educated in public or private schools.

“She was explicitly eliminated from having access to the President’s Scholarship and the University Scholarship,” he said. “How that policy became established, I have no idea.”

Davis said ASU later changed its policy, and his daughter was upgraded to the President’s Scholarship. Yet, even now, there is no way to confirm what criteria are being used to award such scholarships.

Lawmakers, though, are trying to change that. The Senate Education Accountability and Reform Committee passed S1280 after a 5-2 vote on Feb. 10 to make it mandatory that public universities publish clear policies regarding the criteria for scholarships awarded on merit.

Carol Shippy, a volunteer lobbyist for Arizona Families for Home Education, said parents who educate their children at home spend hours trying to understand the qualifications for their students to receive merit-based scholarships.

“All we are asking for is that we have a way to view what the criteria are in a manner that is understandable and accessible for most parents,” she said. “It just shouldn’t be this hard.”

Now that Davis’s daughter is a freshman at ASU with a deserving scholarship, he still has to worry about his 16-year-old son, a homeschooled high school junior.

“The incoming demographic of the freshmen class varies from year-to-year, so they don’t necessarily have a fixed criteria,” Davis said. “The problem is that, even after the fact, you can’t find out.”

After hearing the testimonies of Davis and Shippy, the committee debated on how the universities would inform students of the changing criteria in a way that would provide enough time to decide which college would suit them best.

“We have a sense that this might be able to be achieved through the Internet,” said Sen. John Huppenthal, who is the committee chairman and first sponsor of the bill. “I certainly will make sure that it won’t make an undue burden on the universities, but at the same time we’ll get better information out to the homeschooling community.”

Greg Fahey, representing the University of Arizona at the hearing, said the process of determining scholarship requirements is rather fluid. He said the university is willing to work with lawmakers to make the information available in a timely manner, but he said it will be difficult.

“I’m not saying that we can’t make determinations and publish them … but we have so much money (the criteria) varies from year-to-year,” he said.


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