Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Exporting Excellence

Local scholars Jacob Beck, Fayetteville High School; Meredith Brown of Shiloh Christian School; Caroline Srygley, Fayetteville High School;. Elizabeth Templeton, Fayetteville High School; Robert March, Rogers High School; Travis Rose, Rogers High School; and Jane Stitt of West Fork, home school, were among 34 Arkansas high school seniors of 2,200 students across the country named this week as recipients of National Merit Scholarships financed by colleges and universities. Congratulations to them!

Of those 34 students planning on attending college in Arkansas, 13 will be going to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, two to Hendrix College, and one to Harding University. Somewhat more telling is that 18 of these 34 Merit Scholars plan to attend out-of-state schools. Even four of the seven students from Washington and Benton counties will be packing up for an out-of-state education. As long as
our top students continue to choose to leave the state for their college education and Arkansas continues to export its outstanding high school graduates, we will have difficulty building our economy and community leadership for the 21st century.

If more than half of the state's top Sporting News high school athletes signed with out-of-state schools, heads would roll, and citizens would demand to know why we had such a dismal recruiting year. As long as we are losing only academic all-stars, well, so what?

It might not be a bad idea for Arkansas higher education officials, boards of trustees, and legislators to at least inquire of these students, their parents, and their school counselors why a majority have passed up higher education opportunities in Arkansas and all have taken a pass on all but one of our numerous state institutions. Governor Beebe and the legislature might find the answers interesting--and more helpful than relying solely on the representations of "need" offered up by the lobbyists for higher education who usually ask for more money under an old sinkhole formula that perpetuates past practices and priorities.

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