Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Oh, No! Not in South Carolina Too!

I first encountered this insanity in Texas. In order to con parents into thinking how well its students "earned" scholarship money, the private school solicited from each graduating senior the amount of scholarship aid from each college or university applied to, added them all together, and multiplied by four (for the four years of college). Amounts for all students were compiled and the total released to show how much monetary value parents received in return for paying four years of high school tuition.

Then I came back to Charleston to find that school guidance departments are insane here also (they would have been laughed around the block in New Jersey!). Now today's headline:

"Class of '06 proved very scholarly," by Diette Courrege, The Post and Courier, Lowcountry and State section, Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Scholarly about what? SAT scores? NO. Graduation rates? Heavens, no. It seems that, according to a release from state Superintendent Tenenbaum, this year's seniors "won" more funds than any previous class. The State Superintendent's office encourages this nonsense by keeping a running total of scholarship money on a five-year basis!
Now, if you have been suckered into believing that this total represents intelligent accounting practices, let me enlighten you. Here are the factors that make that total a joke:

  1. The more schools the student applies to, the higher his or her total; thus, Jimmy Joe, who applies to 12 schools, contributes 48 times his actual financial need, whereas Peggy Sue, who applies early decision to one school, contributes 4 times her financial need.
  2. Notice I said "financial need" not "scholarship total." A FEW scholarships are not based on need, it is true; however, most of what goes into the school's (or state's) total is based on need. That brings us to
  3. The higher the total amount, the more financially-needy the students. Got that? Thus, if all students applying to college were below the poverty level and all managed to apply to 30 schools each, the "scholarship" total would SKYROCKET! We sure would want to brag about that!
  4. Finally, unless the state is losing population [not] or graduating fewer students total [not], the NUMBER of students reporting scholarship aid automatically increases each year, whether they are more "scholarly" or not.

My proof?

  1. According to the reporter, "the state counts the value of scholarships awarded as opposed to those accepted." Exactly.
  2. "It appears that no organization tracks the state-by-state totals for public and private scholarships awarded." Did the reporter ever wonder WHY? They seem to track everything else. But then, why track nonsense?
  3. After it "improved" the way it "counted and reported" scholarship winners, Woodland High School TRIPLED the dollar amount from last year. Let's see: last year's $341,013 times 4 = about $1.4 million, roughly comparable to the $1.3 million reported this year. The report doesn't mention what the "improvement" was, but it seems fairly obvious to me! I bet they hadn't been told to multiply by 4 (years of college)!
  4. Notice, the principal at Woodland said, "more students applied for money," not scholarships. That's financial aid being added into the total.

I could go on, but I've made my point. The Newsless Courier needs to employ more critical thinking to the handouts from the state superintendent's office. This is the second time since I started blogging that Tenenbaum's nonsense has been taken at face value.

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