Merit scholarships help those of modest means, too

May 15, 2011

In a recent letter, the Maryland Higher Education Commission's former chairman, Kevin O'Keefe, defends the O'Malley administration's cutbacks to its Distinguished Scholar scholarship program ("Distinguished Scholars program deserved to be cut," May 13).

In his elitist and terribly inappropriate description of Maryland's brightest students, Mr. O'Keefe maintains that doing away with the non-indexed scholarship will not keep these students from attending college. Mr. O'Keefe then says "that is not the case for Maryland's poorest students, for whom financial aid makes all the difference in college attendance." It is unfortunate that such executives or former executives equate academic excellence with wealthy families.

I cannot believe that one of the qualifications for receiving this small scholarship is coming from a wealthy family. Obviously, Mr. O'Keefe infers it does. Perhaps those who fail to receive a Distinguished Scholar grant will still go to college as Mr. O'Keefe asserts, but financial assistance rewarded for actually performing and excelling in studies can help ensure that such students can attend colleges most appropriate for their future and not be compelled to attend more affordable, second or third choice alternative institutions.

Alas, money remains in the much more highly funded Senatorial and Delegate Scholarship programs which, if our General Assembly had a conscience, would be used to restore present and future funding to the Distinguished Scholar program instead of providing financial assistance to winners of their notice. Not to go off topic, but I am also one of those Marylanders who understand that our representatives in Annapolis prefer to spend our resources providing financial assistance, not to hard working Maryland students, but to students who are not citizens.

Charles Herr, Baltimore

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