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Nate Bell’s Weird Idea: Let’s Stop Wasting Taxpayer Money!

Updated: Apr 13

State Representative Nate Bell is working on legislation that would require Arkansas lottery scholarship recipients to repay their scholarship money if they do not finish school.  He has not officially released a draft of the bill, but that didn’t deter Max Brantley from immediately attacking Rep. Bell’s proposal as soon as Bell mentioned it on Facebook.

Brantley says “there is a lot wrong with this idea.” Curiously, he only mentions one thing: a small percentage of folks might have to drop out of school due to a family calamity and how heartless it would be to make these people pay back their scholarships.

If Brantley had chosen to act as a journalist, not as an activist, he would have found out that, remarkably, Rep. Bell’s proposal will include exceptions for these very calamities.  The bill will also make provisions for an appeals process: under the bill, if someone feels they are unfairly being forced to repay money, they can take their case to the Department of Higher Education for review.

Rep. Bell told me this morning:

 “As long as folks are making an effort and continuing to make progress towards a degree, we don’t want them to go into repayment.  We are early on in the process, but the guidelines will likely mirror federal student loan repayment triggers which I believe are a minimum of 6 hours.”

Bell’s point is that the feds require you to take a minimum amount of classes every semester to be eligible for federal student loans – a measure that sounds reasonable at the state level as well.  If you want the taxpayers to pay for your education, you should be in school at least half-time.  In fact, according to the state guidelines already on the books, students are expected to take a certain number of hours in order to maintain eligibility: namely, they’re expected to

Successfully complete twenty-seven (27) semester hours or the equivalent in the first year as a recipient and thirty (30) semester hours or the equivalent each academic year thereafter;

Bell said that some colleges and universities require scholarship students to enter into contracts with the school that require them to pay back part of the cost of their education if they fail to earn a degree, providing UCLA as an example:

 “The bottom line is that young people would know up front, similar to what UCLA does. If they don’t continue their education, they would have to repay the money. There was $28 million last year that went to students who dropped out.  I want to make sure that the money is going to people who are going to stay in school.”

Isn’t this what the scholarships are supposed to be about?  Educating people?  Ensuring that those who are serious about their education are the ones who receive the money is just good governance. At some point, taxpayers are entitled to a return on their investment for every single government program. And now that Bell’s addressed Brantley’s concern, I assume he agrees.

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