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State Journal: Liberty or death; Take a TIP from Michigan

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The enterpreneur whose "I Have a Dream'' project inspired New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo's Liberty Scholarship proposal says he is "prepared to kill'' if the plan is rejected by the legislature.

"There is no way this democratic government can deny New York'' the program, which would guarantee tuition at state colleges to impoverished 7th graders who graduate from high school, said Eugene Lang at a meeting of the New York PTA on March 22.

Negotiations on Mr. Cuomo's proposed $28.4-billion state budget broke down early last week over the scholarship plan, with the Republican Senate majority leader accusing the Democratic Governor of holding the spending blueprint hostage to win approval for "one of his pet programs in the precise form he prescribes.'' The deadline for approving the budget was April 1.

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said the administration was "hopeful'' that the plan would be approved "in some form or another.'' He added that it was unlikely that an agreement on the budget would be reached by the end of last week.

In his speech to the PTA, Mr. Lang said passage of the scholarship program was essential because other states "are looking to see what happens here.''

If approved, he said, the plan "will become the norm for the entire country.''

Had the New York businessman done his homework more carefully, he would have discovered that a similar program breezed through the Michigan legislature last year and was launched in late February.

Under the state's $2-million Tuition Incentive Program, or TIP, low-income students under 20 who graduate from high school or obtain a GED will receive up to two years of free tuition at community colleges. Those who complete community college within 30 months will be eligible for a voucher of up to $2,000 for tuition at any of Michigan's four-year colleges. The state expects about 1,000 students to take advantage of the plan this year.

The TIP program was the beneficiary of a rare consensus between key Senate Republicans and the state's Democratic Governor, James J. Blanchard. Introduced by the Senate education committee chairman, Dan DeGrow--who this year is at loggerheads with the Governor over school and tax reform--it was quickly embraced by Mr. Blanchard.

In speeches at several Detroit area high schools on Feb. 26, the Governor said he would like to spend as much as $5 million to $10 million on TIP in the future.--T.M.

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