Calling the Arkansas lottery a “scholarship lottery” is laughable. Only 19 percent of its total revenue funds scholarships—$98 million out of $515 million in sales—making it second only to Wyoming in the lowest percentage awarded to students of all the state lotteries.
The amount of scholarship money given to Arkansas students each year is not nearly enough to provide meaningful financial assistance: $1,000 a semester the first year; $4,000 the second and third years, and $5,000 the fourth year.
Have you checked the cost of tuition, lodging, food, transportation, computers, and BOOKS lately? Arkansas Tech—hardly a fancy institution—costs $19,782 a year—$1,240 in books and supplies alone. To maintain a lottery scholarship, a student is required to be full-time—so, when would a student have the time to make the other $18,782 required the first year? Especially since most make only a minimum wage.
Why are we giving money to students whose families can afford to pay for their schooling? There is no income too high for a student to qualify. It is so irritating to have an affluent parent happily tell me that her Johnny or Susie is getting an Arkansas lottery scholarship when I know students whose parents cannot help them and who could really use the money—actually a lot more money.
The legislature has cut the size of individual scholarships three times since its beginning. Let’s reverse that trend. Let’s make the size of each scholarship be enough to make a difference and let’s make it needs-based.