HOPE numbers fall short

700 students qualify for science, technology grants

2,000 expected

May 18, 1999|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

The state's first attempt at a HOPE scholarship program has fallen short of its predicted enrollment.

About 700 high school seniors -- well below the expected 2,000 -- have qualified for grants aimed at encouraging students to major in science and technology.

"I'm excited that this program is under way," said Patricia S. Florestano, secretary of higher education. "I'll be even more excited next year when we reach our projected numbers."

About 1,600 students applied for the program, but many did not meet the requirement of a B average in high school, Florestano said. The scholarship pays $3,000 a year toward college costs at any school in the state as long as the student majors in a science or technology area and continues to maintain a B average.

After graduation, the student must work in Maryland in a technological field for as many years as the scholarship was received, or pay the money back.

"When we make our projections, the main thing is that we do not want to turn away qualified applicants, so if we make an error, it's on the high side," Florestano said of the program, which was passed by the state legislature last year. "But we might have to do some work to get the word out on this.

"That's not usually the case for us," she said. "Normally, if you have a financial aid program, they will come."

The state extended the deadline for applying for the scholarships, and Florestano said late applications will still be considered, particularly from Maryland residents who graduate from a high school in another state and are not technically eligible for the program until a modification to the statute goes into effect in July.

About 690 grants have been approved, which means that less than $2 million of the $5.1 million set aside for the 1999-2000 school year will be used.

Through a spokesman, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who persuaded lawmakers this year to offer scholarships to in-state students studying to be teachers, pronounced himself "very encouraged" by the science and technology program, despite its slow start.

"It's brand-new," said Ray Feldmann, Glendening's press secretary. "It's just something that people need to learn more about."

Feldmann predicted that the number of applicants would grow.

"We would have liked to have seen more," said state Sen. Patrick J. Hogan, a Montgomery County Republican, an early supporter of the scholarships.

Hogan said it takes time for word of new financial aid programs like this to spread among high school guidance counselors.

"It's a step in the right direction," he said, adding that the state "desperately needs" those who did apply and qualify.

The science and technology program is the first of the HOPE type of scholarships in Maryland. Such scholarships were pioneered in Georgia where all high school students with B averages who maintain that in college get free tuition at public colleges.

Glendening has said that he wants such a program in Maryland by 2002. The second phase, passed by the General Assembly this year, is aimed at students studying to be teachers who commit to teaching in the state after graduation.

Education officials had hoped to offer that program to high school seniors this year, but the legislature delayed it a year. Enough money is in that program to offer grants to college seniors and graduate students this fall.

Of those approved for the science and technology scholarships, 358 will attend the University of Maryland, College Park, 131 will go to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and 37 will go to the Johns Hopkins University.

Education officials said 34 will go to community colleges, making them eligible for $1,000 grants for community college tuition.

Baltimore County had the most recipients with 130, while Prince George's County had 113, Montgomery County 90, Anne Arundel County 58, Howard County 50, Harford County 37 and Carroll County 33. Sixteen scholarships were awarded to Baltimore City students.

Sun staff writer Timothy B. Wheeler contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 5/18/99

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