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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Scholarship program remains troubled

Posted By on Tue, Dec 4, 2012 at 11:34 AM

As of yesterday's Lottery Commission meeting, year-to-date revenues are back to where they were this time last year, following a jump in ticket sales attributed to a record $587 million Powerball jackpot. But according to Shane Broadway, interim director of the state Department of Higher Education, the lottery scholarship program is still on shaky ground. Even if the lottery generates $100 million a year for scholarships, at the present rate of awards, the program is only a few years from running out of money. Ninety million a year would fund the incoming class of freshman for four years, if scholarships were reduced by over $1,000 per student, from $3,300 per year for students attending four-year schools and $1,650 per year for students attending two-year schools — and even then, some funds will have to come from the reserve.

Sen. Johnny Key (R-Mountain Home) submitted a legislative proposal that scholarships be awarded in amounts that increased as the student progressed — $2,000 for freshmen, $3,000 for sophomores, $4,000 for juniors and $5,000 for seniors. Commissioner Bruce Engstrom pointed out that such a small amount of initial funding might discourage students from applying to college. Thus far, the Department of Higher Ed hasn't conducted any research to discover how far scholarships can drop before students become discouraged. This plan has been criticized as subsidizing privileged students who could most likely afford college anyhow.

Current scholarships are at $4,500 a year for students attending a four-year school, and $2,250 a year for those attending a two-year school. Broadway noted that one solution is changing scholarship eligibility requirements.

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