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The Michigan City Common Council on Tuesday night took a page out of Hammond's playbook by offering $5,000 per year scholarships to high school graduates heading off to college or some other secondary education.

The vote was 9-0 despite provisions that exclude children of renters, those in the private schools and residents outside the city limits.

Resident Sheila Burkhart said the restrictions could have as many as one half of the high school students ineligible for the program and urged that children of renters not be excluded.

"I know you're concerned if you have enough funding, but you're only helping a select number of children in Michigan City," she said.

According to officials, the idea is to stabilize the city's population by enticing people to stay, entice people to move into the city and promote home ownership.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., said the same restrictions apply in his city where the casino-funded scholarship program is now in its 10th year.

He said a committee exists in his city to hear appeals from non-eligible children who feel they have special exceptions that deserve being awarded scholarships.

McDermott went on to say the program has worked to stabilize the population in his city and increase home values.

"It's a good step forward for Michigan City," McDermott said.

$2.5 million in riverboat proceeds was earmarked for the first year of the program.

Richard Murphy, the city controller, said the program can be changed once the program is up and running and they find out if any money is left over to add more students.

Mayor Ron Meer said the tax money is the city's and the program is a creation of city officials so it's only right that only city residents are eligible.

He said private school parents made the decision not to send their children to the public schools and if they want to take advantage of the program they can decide to enroll their kids in the public schools.

Rachel Hall lives outside the city but sends her children to Coolspring Elementary and Barker Middle School.

She's been a soccer coach and involved in the schools in other ways and feels some involved parents could choose to leave because they're being left out of the program.

''We live outside the city limits but are still part of the community and we should be valued as such,'' said Hall.

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