Several legislators filed a bill this week to once again lower the amounts future students will receive from the lottery scholarship. The amounts have been lowered every legislative session since the scholarship’s original enactment in 2009 due to continuing lower than expected revenues from the state-wide lottery. The most recent proposal, HB1295, staggers the amount a student may receive depending on how many credit hours the student has successfully completed as follows:
$2,000 for students who have completed less than 27 credit hours;
$3,000 for students who have completed more than 27 but less than 58 credit hours;
$4,000 for students who have completed more than 58 but less than 88 credit hours;
$5,000 for students who have completed more than 88 credit hours.
Students can still receive the scholarship only up to 130 credit hours, with the reasoning being that a student should have completed his or her degree by that point. If this bill is passed, students enrolled at two-year and four-year institutions will be eligible for the same award amounts, unlike the current statute that allows students at two-year colleges to receive only one-half of the amount that students at four-year institutions receive.
Supporters of the bill will argue that this will reward students for success and progression to a degree and reduce the wasting of scholarship funds on entering students who cannot or do not succeed. Opponents, on the other hand, will argue that this hurts poor students because they cannot afford to actually start college without scholarship assistance, and as such, the bulk of these scholarship funds will be going to middle-class students who can already afford to attend college. This is an ongoing debate that can’t be solved to everyone’s satisfaction, and the problem began in 2009 when the legislature set eligibility standards too low and award amounts too high. Those who suffer now are the students who are, or will, be relying on those scholarships to help pay for the rising costs of higher education.
UPDATE: This bill has been amended, and you can find the amended version here. Most notably, the amendment limits recipients at two-year colleges to $2,000 per year, regardless of classification, and requires an increase in the amount of funding going to non-traditional students.