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Parnell's scholarship plan hits roadblock

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Posted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 4:17 am | Updated: 12:57 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed secondary scholarship plan is running into difficulty in the Legislature.

Parnell, when proposing the program last year, pitched using earnings from

$400 million in savings for annual scholarships. That framework could be “off the table,” as one representative put it, as members debate the plan’s size and boundaries, including the question of whether to include income guidelines for a so-called “needs-based” component to the plan.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said some legislators are grappling with the program’s size at a time when they are looking to save money. He said the plan could merit study through the summer and fall.

“I’m not sure we’re ready to make (the) final decision” on how the plan should look, Stevens said.

Parnell proposed a merit-based program, where scholarships would go to students taking accelerated course loads and earning average-or-better grades. Democrats said Tuesday that an “ideological” fight has broken out between Parnell’s supporters and those favoring some income guidelines.

Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, said the disagreement comes as state researchers report about long-run worker shortages the scholarship program would help solve. He said students and employers could be discouraged by news the program will need to wait for a year of study.

“That’s the sorrowful part of this,” he said.

Stevens said Parnell’s plan of building a new scholarship program with earnings from state savings could change.

He said options include the use of forgiveness loans or helping the university update an existing, university-administered Scholars Program.

House Democrats said support exists for Parnell’s aim of providing merit-based scholarships. Disagreement exists, said Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, over his proposal to send aid to students who take tougher courses but achieve only mediocre grades.

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