The lottery decision UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Friday, February 20, 2009

The lottery decision UPDATE

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 5:24 PM

Sounds like the decision has been made. No way the legislature will allow the creation of a separate lottery scholarship fund, something that the Father of the Arkansas Lottery, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, could possibly claim authorship of. House Speaker Robbie Wills says the new money will go into existing scholarship programs. Their failure is evidenced in huge surpluses on account of confusing rules and means-testing at extraordinarily low levels.

Presumably there will be some alterations in the existing programs if this occurs. But the discussion is heading in the wrong direction.

Canary in the coal mine on the scholarship portion of the lottery bill: Big set-asides for "concurrent enrollment" by high school students and pure trade school offerings. If those survive as beneficiaries of the new money, forget about a quantum leap forward in what state scholarships can do for college completion rates. And expect a plausible legal argument that the legislature has not met the constitutional requirement that the lottery proceeds amount to a supplement of existing higher education spending.

UPDATE: Speaker Wills Blackberries me: "You're way off and getting colder." Good. Hope my pessimism is misplaced. I was briefed at some length Thursday afternoon about where the House was heading and concurrent enrollment and trade schools, etc., were still very much in the cards. If things have changed, good on everyone. If we're heading to a broadly available scholarship program, open to all, no matter family background, who've satisfactorily completed a core curriculum, then I think we're talking about a scholarship program that can produce meaningful dollars for a lot of students, no matter whose estimate is right on the lottery revenues. Oh, and yes, it would produce more college graduates, a million-dollar bonus against those who don't get a college education.

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