Barack Obama Scholars Program: Not Just for Poor Folks Anymore


After being embarrassed for not giving Barack Obama an honorary degree, Arizona State University expanded a financial aid program that gives qualifying students a full ride for four years. Now you don't even have to be "poor" to qualify.

As we've previously covered, it's not like ASU is paying much of the "Obama Scholars Program" costs itself. The program formerly called ASU Advantage pulls together diverse sources of financial aid, like federal Pell Grants, scholarships, and private donations and packages them together for students who meet the academic and demographic criteria.

To double the number of students covered by the program, ASU raised the qualifying household income from $25,000 to $60,000 a year.

The program is expected to pay $17,000 a year for each of the four years covered. That comes to a total of $68,000.

You don't have to be a math major to imagine some of the financial decisions that might be made by some middle-class parents out there to take full advantage of the program.

For instance, take a family in which the wife makes $60,000 and the husband makes $25,000 a year. If their kid has excellent grades and wants to go to ASU, why would the husband continue to work if his take-home pay is less than $17,000?

We can't help but wonder whether this program will ultimately serve the population for which it's intended, or if the truly needy will be squeezed out by richer folks who just want a good deal.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.