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When scholarship programs aren’t targeted toward students who show particular academic promise or financial need, the awarding of those benefits can get pretty subjective. Too often, that’s a recipe for cronyism.

That’s why it's so troublesome that three siblings from Texas wound up with coveted Board of Supervisors scholarships to LSU at a time when their grandfather, Larry Hollier, was earning big bucks as chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. One student got $70,000 toward an undergraduate finance degree. The others got about $30,000 between them, adding up to a six-figure haul for the family from 2013 to 2018.

The scholarships don’t appear to have violated guidelines, which are notably lax. They bar awards only to families LSU Board of Supervisors members and elected officials, not university officials. Each board member and the university president can give out 15 scholarships a year, but only two to cover much higher out-of-state costs.

Hollier resigned recently amid a slew of revelations about questionable dealings, including attempts to improperly bump up compensation for members of his inner circle, and in one case a prominent colleague’s son. In that context, the awarding of scholarships to his grandchildren is even more worrisome.

The students’ mother said her kids met the scholarship qualifications, and given how minimal they are, that’s surely true. Two people who gave scholarships to the siblings, one of whom was former LSU President F. King Alexander, said they didn’t know of the connection. 

Yet like the Tulane University legislative scholarships that were for years funneled to insiders, the news raises serious questions over whether those without connections can access the same breaks

Ironically, Alexander said he once tried to reform the scholarship program but was largely rebuffed by board members who are used to the perks that come with the appointment. The current leadership should try again. These scholarships are just one more longstanding practice at LSU that doesn’t pass the smell test.