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The Therapy Sessions
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Philly Chases Its Tail

And now for an upbeat story from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Philadelphia students get a scholarship guarantee

Philadelphia public high school students who want to go to college - and who have the grades - will no longer be held back by lack of money.

What could be a dream come true for thousands of the city's 10,700 seniors was announced yesterday - a four-year, $40 million plan to pay up to $3,000 for each eligible student whose freshman-year funds fall short.

Mayor Street and the Philadelphia School District pledged the scholarships over the next four years for about 9,600 seniors in public schools and 1,100 more in charter schools. Most of the 4,000 city students who attend college each year require financial aid.

Who knows where the cash strapped city finds the money? At least the officials acknowledge that the program is likely to grow more expensive as more students find out about it, leading to more debt for Philly.

"It's a problem we'd like to have," an official said.

Debt is problem you already have, sweetheart.

Left unsaid is why an unemployed art major dropout from the Community College of Philadelphia is any better than what we have.

The real problem is that Philly is full of unmonitored children who couldn't point their father out in a police lineup.

There is a blind faith on the left that if we can just get these kids into college, colleges will somehow sort it out.

I beg to differ.

Anyone who could have paid some money for his own college education won't do so once this program is in place: it is - like most government programs - a disincentive for someone to pay for himself.

As a result, most of these scholarships will go to kids who were going to college anyway. And now they can do so on the taxpayer's tab!

The poor kids, as usual, will be left behind.

Why doesn't someone target a program like this DIRECTLY at poor kids, to give them hope and a desire to work?

That has been tried too. In the early 80's, a philanthropist named George Weiss tried to do just that, paying not just for college but for all the tutoring that 112 very poor children needed to get them there.

Nothing seemed impossible at that moment;not even the notion that 112 children from this tragically blighted pocket of Philadelphia could beat the odds and go to college. Twelve years later, George Weiss, who could not attend the announcement himself because of a bad back, has spent more than $5 million on these students, for tutoring, counseling, social services, and college expenses. By some analysts' reckoning, what he's gotten for his money, so far, eleven Bachelor's degrees, two Associate's degrees, and seven vocational certificates isn't much.

No, it was a huge disappointment. The students' rates of incarceration, truancy, graduation attendance were indistinguishable from neighboring high schools, unblessed with such generous scholarship programs.

Philly doesn't need more government programs.

The most important thing a student needs to succeed is a motivating factor that no one can put a price on. Preferably, two of these motivating factors.

We call them parents.

UPDATE: And now it gets even more ridiculous: Private schools want to join Phila.'s scholarship plan
Private school students with good grades are even more likely to be going to college, and more capable of doing so on their own dime.

But their parents pay taxes too. And Philly is using their taxes to get into the scholarship business! Why shouldn't their kids get a shot?

Once again, my cynicism with Philly's big government heavy-handedness is justified: this program is going to cost a lot of money and it will not help anyone.

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