In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, one South Carolina lawmaker wants to temporarily relax requirements for some students to receive lottery scholarships.
Under the proposal, led by S.C. Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, students graduating high school in 2020 would only need to meet one of three academic requirements to receive the $5,000 per year LIFE scholarship.
That’s why the proposal will come in the form of a budget proviso — essentially a one-year law attached to the state budget — rather than a bill, which is permanent, Jackson said.
The one-year proposal has the support of Harvey Peeler, the president of the S.C. Senate and a member of the Senate Education Committee, Jackson said. Jackson said he promised Peeler, R-Cherokee, he would not try to make the loosened requirements permanent.
“The key is it’s one year only and it’s just the senior class only,” Jackson said.
The State has reached out to Peeler.
Jackson said he created the proposal after speaking with a constituent whose high school student narrowly missed the standardized test requirements for the LIFE scholarship and was unable to re-take the test because coronavirus caused the tests to be postponed.
Currently, to receive the LIFE scholarship, students need to meet two of three academic criteria, according to the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, which allocates lottery scholarships.
Those academic requirements are: earning a 3.0 grade-point-average, an 1100 SAT score or 24 ACT score and finishing in the top 30 percent of the graduating class, according to the agency.
Should the proposal pass, it would be a temporary about-face from several bills to raise the academic requirements for lottery scholarships. Those initiatives began after S.C. changed its grading scale, making it easier for students to get a higher GPA and therefore increasing spending on students who receive the scholarships.
There is a possibility the legislature will not pass a budget by the time most colleges reopen, so Jackson said he would try to make the proviso retroactive if that happens.
Should this proviso pass, it would temporarily increase state spending, but it is unclear by how much, Jackson said. Usually, when lottery scholarships run over budget, it draws tens of millions from the state’s taxpayer-funded general fund. However, there may be an opportunity to use federal stimulus money to help pay for the extra cost of the proviso, Jackson said.
“I think the cost would be worth it,” Jackson said.