Bill would give money to Southeastern college students
June 13 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Bill would give money to Southeastern college students | Friday, June 13, 2003

Friday, June 13, 2003

Bill would give money to Southeastern college students

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

Students in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's college program would get a good part of their tuition paid if a bill approved June 11 by the N.C. House of Representatives becomes law.

Under the bill, students at Southeastern's college and Roanoke Bible College in Elizabeth City would become eligible for $1,800 a year from the state. The program would be similar to North Carolina's Legislative Tuition Grant Program.

Southern Baptist college students at Southeastern pay tuition of $140 per credit hour, according to the college's Web site. A student taking an average of 15 hours a semester would pay $4,200 a year. Students who are not Southern Baptists pay double that amount.

That amount does not include room, food and other expenses.

The school, which is called Southeastern College at Wake Forest, has the equivalent of about 205 full-time students, General Assembly records show.

The bill must be approved by the N.C. Senate and signed by Gov. Mike Easley to become law.

Rep. Paul (Skip) Stam, a Republican from Apex, co-sponsored the bill. Stam also serves as one of two Baptist State Convention parliamentarians.

The bill's other sponsors are Rep. William C. Owens, a Democrat from Elizabeth City, and Rep. Rick L. Eddins, a Raleigh Republican whose district includes Wake Forest.

Students at other N.C. private colleges, including N.C. Baptist colleges, already get money under the Legislative Tuition Grant Program.

Stam said the only reason students at Southeastern college can't currently get the money is because a provision in the existing law excludes students who attend a school owned by a seminary. The reason students at Roanoke can't receive the funds is because the current law prohibits students from getting it if they are attending a school with "Bible" in its name.

The admission policies at the school are not the reason the students don't qualify, he said.

Stam said both schools are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a secular accrediting agency. Students at the schools already qualify for other government programs.

"To put this in perspective, you can study religion at Gardner-Webb (University) or Campbell (University) or St. Andrews (Presbyterian College) and be studying Bible - Old Testament and New Testament - and get the Legislative Tuition Grant, but if you're studying at Southeastern College to become a public school teacher, you do not qualify," he said.

Stam said Southeastern students who live in his district had asked him to look into the matter. Several members of his church, Apex Baptist Church, attend the school, he said.

"Let me make absolutely clear that the Southeastern administration did not request this," Stam said. "This was requested by students who spoke to me inquiring why they were being discriminated against."

The News and Observer reported that several lawmakers objected to the measure, fearing it will bring a discrimination lawsuit because students must be Christians to attend.

"Let's assume for a minute the college said are you black or white, and you've got to answer white to get in," said Rep. Martin Nesbitt, an Asheville Democrat. "We would not dare allow that."

Owens and Stam said the bill avoids constitutional issues by sending money directly to the students at religious schools.

"I don't think it's right that just because you're going to be a minister and going to a Bible college that you should not get help," Owens said.

The bill would add $450,000 to the state's budget next year, according to General Assembly records. Lawmakers are currently working to eliminate a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars in the state budget.

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6/13/2003 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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