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Saturday, May 24, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hans Zeiger / NEXT columnist

Locke v. Davey: Get the government out of the college-aid business

When Joshua Davey of Spokane was making plans to attend Northwest College in Kirkland, he was granted a $1,100 Washington Promise Scholarship from our state's Higher Education Coordinating Board. But when Davey announced his intention to major in Pastoral Ministries and Business Management, the state denied him his money.

The state cited "separation of church and state" as the reason for its revocation.

Davey's case made its way from a U.S. District Court to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where it was determined that the state owed Joshua Davey the scholarship that had been promised to him.

But on Monday, the Supreme Court accepted the appeal of Washington state, and soon we can anticipate a ruling in Gov. Gary Locke v. Davey.

As I see it, there are problems on both sides of the case.

Locke and his associates in the lawsuit are quite mistaken in their ridiculous indifference to the importance of religious faith in the history of our state. Consider that the preamble to the Washington state constitution acknowledges thanks to "the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties."

In the light of both heritage and equal access, Christian ministry is no less legitimate of a career pathway than law, medicine or, in the case of the Higher Education Coordinating (HEC) Board, bureaucracy.

On the other hand, Davey and his attorneys are fighting for justice from an unjust state program. Let me explain.

Davey ought to go to college with great scholarships, and if I were on a scholarship board I would probably give him a nice check. But I would never serve on a state scholarship committee nor would I accept financial aid from one.

The problem is not that Davey's education is unworthy of financial aid. The problem is the source of Davey's financial aid: taxpayers. Each year, Washington taxpayers foot the bill for all or part of the higher education of roughly 60,000 students.

According to the HEC board, $6.3 million is spent annually for the Washington Promise Scholarship, while nearly $130 million of additional financial aid is siphoned from your wallet to colleges and universities for degrees of a non-religious nature.

Before selecting a college to attend, I made up my mind to reject state and federal aid of any kind in my higher education, with the exception of assistance that is earned through the military. That is one of the reasons I decided to attend Hillsdale College in Michigan, one of three colleges in the nation that refuses government dough.

I don't come from a wealthy family. I'm pretty much independent of my parents in finding a way to pay for college. I understand that in order to finance my education, I must work harder and apply for more private scholarships than most people do. At least no one can accuse this conservative of being a hypocrite.

In the world of free enterprise, hundreds of thousands of private scholarships exist to help students of all shapes and sizes, GPAs and SAT scores, nationalities and religions, words and deeds. That's a good thing.

In the Internet age, scholarship searches and applications are readily accessible for free. Schools provide additional resources to aid students in their quest for financial aid. And there's nothing wrong with a part-time job market with opportunities for pre-college and college-aged teens to store up savings.

But taxpayers shouldn't be forced to fund lavish scholarship programs; it just isn't a core function of government like K-12 education is.

Bureaucrats, legislators and students in our state should learn that government is not meant to be in the college-aid business.

Hans Zeiger is a senior at Puyallup High School. E-mail: NEXT@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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