OVER many years, most of the things that are wrong with...

Salmagundi

September 21, 1993

OVER many years, most of the things that are wrong with the Maryland legislative scholarship program have been cited in editorials on this page:

It's a convenient form of patronage, especially for the senators, who handed out $5.6 million last year to constituents. (The House of Delegates program is much smaller: $1.4 million.)

Because it's not based on need, scholarship distribution is arbitrary. Aid goes disproportionately to students attending a few expensive private colleges -- and to whites. Last year the senators distributed 21 percent of their awards to blacks and the delegates only 15.1 percent, while the General State Scholarship Program (based on need) distributed 28 percent of its awards to African-Americans.

Put another way, had all of the General Assembly's scholarship pork been placed on the General State Scholarship plate, hundreds more blacks would have been served.

But there is another way all of the programs discriminate, a way that isn't often discussed: The awards go disproportionately to women.

Women outnumber men only slightly in Maryland's general population and 57 percent to 43 percent in higher education. Yet 63 percent of the General State Scholarship money, 66 percent of the senatorial money and 65 percent of the delegates' scholarships are distributed to women. Indeed, two of every three dollars in all of the state's $25.6 million scholarship programs go to women, according to the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

But don't be optimistic about any of these statistics changing minds in Annapolis come January.

The reason: 1994 is an election year.

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