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Foglesong says Promise should focus more on need

by Justin D. Anderson
Daily Mail Capitol Reporter
Posted Friday, January 13, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Retired Air Force Gen. Robert H. "Doc" Foglesong, a West Virginia native and former university president, said family income should be the biggest factor in who gets a Promise scholarship.

Foglesong said the state-funded college scholarship program is moving away from its original intent and recent proposals to cap the scholarship at $4,500 a year would only hurt students who need the help most.

"For me, that's an issue," said Foglesong. "Coming from Southern West Virginia, I saw an incredible number of young men and women who were so economically challenged they couldn't go to school, but they were bright. They could have been successful in school, they just couldn't afford to go to school."

Foglesong - a Mingo County native who stepped down last year as president of Mississippi State University - was in Charleston this week publicizing scholarships distributed by his own foundation, the Appalachian Leadership Education Foundation.

He said low-income families would have a difficult, if not impossible, time making up the difference in tuition should the Promise scholarship be capped.

Instead, Foglesong said state lawmakers should consider awarding the scholarship to students based on a tiered system of family income.

"So, if you're really financially challenged, then you ought to get the full amount," he said. "If you're less financially challenged, you may get a lesser amount."

Foglesong said that sort of system would work similarly to the federal Pell Grant Program.

If West Virginia lawmakers moved to such a system for the Promise, Foglesong believed the state would save money.

"I could almost tell you for certain that if you put in a tiered system, it would cost less than $40 million," he said. "It just depends on what tiers you select."

So far this legislative session, which began in earnest Wednesday, no bills have been introduced to alter the eligibility for a Promise scholarship.

The $4,500 cap on the scholarship was a recommendation made this year by a committee charged with studying how to rein in the costs of the program.

Foglesong said he began a Promise-like scholarship program at Mississippi State and said the costs were manageable because the program was based primarily on need in addition to academic achievement.

Contact writer Justin D. Anderson at justin@dailymail.com or 304-348-4843.