Lawmakers question scholarship lottery standards

    9:04 PM, Dec 4, 2012   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - State legislators will tackle the issue of revenue verses spending with the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship.

    "We know how many high school seniors there are, what you can't project until you kind of develop a trend is how many in that class are going to apply and accept the award," said Shane Broadway, the Interim Director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

    Hindsight is 20-20 and the influx of applicants for the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery continues to outpace Lottery funds. Broadway says changes must be made and the sooner, the better.

    "If there are changes to the current system either eligibility or the way they're going to make the awards we have to reprogram all of our systems and we have to go through a rules and regulations process that takes several months," says Broadway.

    Lawmakers are already debating what could be done to salvage the lottery scholarship for years to come. State representative and UALR professor, Ann Clemmer, believes academic standards should be raised.

    "If you're going to accept a 2.5 at least make it a 2.5 and a 19," says Clemmer.

    The 2.5 refers to the current grade point average requirement for the scholarship and the 19 is the required ACT score. Clemmer believes the state should raise the standard to also protect students from false hope.

    "That reinforces that they must be ready because they got a scholarship. How many students then go on to borrow more money to go to college and then only to drop out and they have a massive student loan debt," says Clemmer.

    Lottery Director Bishop Woosley says the Powerball Jackpot helped get the lottery to near their projected revenues. Before the spike it was $2.6 million behind.

    "What we try and do is give the most accurate estimate of what we're going to do but ultimately it's a guess," says Woosley.

    Broadway says the state cannot afford to sit on its hands.

    "We're spending about $134 million a year so you're talking, any decision they make regarding the program is really well over $500 million decision because you're impacting the next four years," says Broadway.

    If lawmakers make changes to the scholarship lottery, those will only impact future applicants not currently college students.

    Rep. Clemmer says lawmakers are working on a study looking at a step program; where students who stay in school longer receive a larger amount of money.

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