by Max Brantley
Arkansas ranks high — No. 6 nationally per capita and No. 4 in per student spending — in aid to college students. Asterisk: Our college-going rate is lower than it should be, which mean aid is proportionally higher. Hardy writes
The second figure of note is Arkansas’ failure to create grants that are dependent on the socioeconomic needs of students rather than academic merit. Less than $9 million of the total $55 million grants made in 2011-12 were given to students based on need, which places us near the bottom of the states in terms of need-based grants per capita. Only South Dakota provided a larger percentage of its higher education grant budget to programs that make awards solely on merit. That is, 93% of our grants are purely merit-based, as opposed to a national average of 19%. And as I wrote in a post last month, the few need-based scholarships currently available to Arkansas students are themselves first in line for approaching budget cuts. Unless additional funding is allocated, the GO! Opportunities grant program for low-income students is expected to shrink from around 4200 awards granted in FY 2013 to only 730 awards in the upcoming FY 2014, a greater decline than any other higher education program.
This is precisely why it is a bad idea when Republican legislators start talking about raising the bar higher — whether through test scores and high school grades or GPA of college students — on college aid. Inevitably, these measures further concentrate the aid among the higher income groups, which tend on average to do better in school. That income disparity trends to track racial disparity is another unfortunate coincidence.
Here's a straight link to the national student grant and aid survey.