Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. is looking at alternatives for funding College Bound, including the sale of water to Chicago's south suburbs. That's good, because this program must continue.
Casino revenue currently funds the college scholarship program, but McDermott wants another source of funding for his signature program.
That's a smart move for at least two reasons. There is increasing pressure to use that casino money for other purposes, and it's wise not to rely on tax revenue from a single business for operational costs.
"If Horseshoe Casino were to burn down, we wouldn't have this program," McDermott said recently.
The program originally was funded for only 10 years, so it's set to expire at the end of the 2015-16 school year.
College Bound should continue regardless of who is in the mayor's office.
Since the program began, 1,226 children of Hammond homeowners have received college scholarships. Students must meet certain academic requirements to quality for four years of assistance.
The scholarships cover tuition and fees, but not housing, books and other costs. Essentially, it's a full ride scholarship based on the cost for 30 credit hours at Indiana University's main campus in Bloomington.
College Bound encourages existing homeowners to stay put, and it gives home buyers a reason to consider locating in Hammond.
McDermott said people have offered donations, but not enough to fully fund the program.
The mayor is looking at money from the sale of water to south suburban communities as a way of funding the scholarship program. Those are long-term contracts, so that's a smart idea.
College Bound is good for the city as well as for the families, because it's a strong selling point for buying or remaining in a home there. It must be extended to serve college students well into the future.