Originally created 03/03/00

Bill would aid child prodigies



COLUMBIA -- Nick Green could've used the news he heard Thursday two years ago, but at least someone was listening when he complained about being too smart to get a college scholarship.

That person is Robert S. "Skipper" Perry, Aiken's newest state House member. The Republican representative has introduced a bill that would make child prodigies like Nick eligible for college scholarships awarded by the Commission on Higher Education -- students who aren't high school graduates or who never took the college-entrance exam.

Nick, 14, graduates next year, and with his honor society designation and history degree comes a $7,000 tab for student loans. He'll be 15 when he marches to Pomp and Circumstance during University of South Carolina Aiken's commencement ceremony. And he could be the youngest-ever graduate from a South Carolina college or university.

But Nick has had to borrow money every year. He is not eligible for a South Carolina LIFE scholarship, meant to help good students go to college, because he isn't a high school graduate. He never went. And he can't become eligible for financial aid by taking a high school equivalency test. Not until he's 16.

It's the kind of problem Nick never expected when he transferred from the California school where he started his college career with state assistance at age 10 and just 70 pounds.

It's also the kind of problem prodigy children like Nick may never again have to worry about.

"We want to keep our best and brightest in South Carolina," Mr. Perry said.

The bill, the representative's first since he took office Jan. 11, now is in the House Education Committee and is a long way from passage.

And it might not become law this year.

But Nick doesn't mind.

"If it doesn't help me, at least it will help someone else," Nick said. "At least someone was listening. Having a high school diploma isn't everything."

While Mr. Perry's bill is in limbo, the representative has talked with university officials from the Columbia campus about getting scholarship money for Nick. He said he's hopeful the funds will come through.

Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895.