Lawmakers to study admission standards

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COLUMBIA - South Carolina residents might want a lot of things when their Legislature convenes next week. Kate Anderson, of North Augusta, said she just wants fairness.

Her daughters, Ashleigh and Lindsay, did well in school - well enough, they believed, to meet the rigorous standards for South Carolina's Palmetto Fellows Scholarship program.

But, seeking a Catholic education for their children, the North Augusta family chose to send their children to Aquinas High School in Augusta, and South Carolina law sets higher Palmetto and LIFE scholarship eligibility standards for resident students who attend high schools in other states.

"I just felt they were penalized based on my decision to send them (to school) across the river," Ms. Anderson said.

She sought help from Rep. Don Smith, R-North Augusta, and local Sens. Tommy Moore, D-Clearwater, and Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken, and said all were supportive.

Mr. Smith said the problem is that class rank is part of the eligibility requirements, but other states use their own grading scales. So the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education believed that, in order to fairly calculate the class rank for a South Carolina student attending high school out of state, the commission would need the grades for each student in those schools and would have to recalculate the class rankings for that school using South Carolina's grading scale.

Instead, the commission opted to drop class rank as an eligibility standard for students who go to school in other states.

In lieu of class ranking, then, out-of-state students had to meet higher grade point average and SAT/ACT scores for the Palmetto Fellows program.

For the LIFE scholarship, in-state students have had the choice of meeting two of three eligibility requirements: GPA, class rank or SAT/ACT scores. Out-of-state students, though, have had to meet both the GPA and SAT/ACT requirements, with class rank not being a factor.

Last session, Mr. Smith put a provision in the state budget that equalized scholarship eligibility requirements for all South Carolina students, regardless of where they attend high school. It's a one-year provision, though.

One of Mr. Smith's goals for the session, which starts Tuesday, is to make those changes a permanent part of state law. Essentially, he said, the commission has agreed to accept other states' class rankings.

Mr. Smith said he knows of 62 students in Aiken County who are affected this year.

"At this point, I don't know of any objections from anybody," he said.

Among other proposals this year:

- Authorizing rural community water districts to provide sewage collection systems if they are unable to do so under law.

- Shortening the amount of time some couples have to wait to divorce in special circumstances.

- Making failure to wear a seat belt admissible as evidence of failure to mitigate damages when a traffic accident leads to a civil action.

- Revising the tax increment financing district law and providing money to meet the state's financial obligation to the tuition prepayment program and then ending further enrollment in the program, sponsored by Mr. Ryberg.

Mr. Ryberg and Mr. Moore had hoped to return to Columbia this week with new titles. But in 2006, they lost bids to become the state's next treasurer and governor, respectively.

Reach Kirsten Singleton at or (803) 414-6611 or kirsten.singleton@morris.com.

SCHOLARSHIP STANDARDS

PALMETTO FELLOWS SCHOLARSHIP: Up to $6,700 annually


Eligibility for students who attend high school in state:


- At least a 1,200 on the SAT (27 on the ACT), a 3.5 GPA and standing in the top 6 percent of the class OR


- At least a 1,400 on SAT (32 on the ACT), and minimum 4.0 GPA


Students attending high school in another state only have had the second option.


LIFE SCHOLARSHIP: Up to $4,700 annually, plus $300 book allowance, for four-year institutions


Eligibility (in-state students must meet two of the three):


- At least a 3.0 final high school grade point average


- Minimum SAT score of 1100 (24 ACT)


- Standing in the top 30 percent of high school graduating class


Students attending high school out of state have had to meet both the GPA and SAT/ACT standards, because class rank has not been allowed as a standard for them.

AIKEN COUNTY CONTACTS

House of Representatives


- Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken Home - (803) 649-6167; Capitol - (803) 734-3033


- Skipper Perry, R-Aiken Home - (803) 648-5882; Business - (803) 648-7547; Capitol - (803) 734-3032


- Don Smith, R-North Augusta Home - (803) 279-0794; Capitol - (803) 734-3031


- Roland Smith: R-Langley Home - (803) 593-2359; Business - (803) 593-8987; Capitol - (803) 734-3114


- Kit Spires, R-Pelion Home - (803) 894-4440; Business - (803) 894-4010; Capitol - (803) 734-3010


- Jim Stewart, R-Aiken Home - (803) 649-5519; Business - (803) 646-7000; Capitol (803) 734-3034


Senate


- Tommy Moore, D-Clearwater Home - (803) 593-5756; Business - (803) 593-4007; Capitol - (803) 212-6156


- Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken Home - (803) 648-9357; Business - (803) 641-4125; Capitol - (803) 212-6400


- Nikki Setzler, D-West Columbia Home - (803) 796-7573; Business - (803) 796-1285; Capitol - (803) 212-6140

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