Thursday, Dec 20, 2012
Lottery Scholarships Top $300 Million Mark
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LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas lottery scholarship program reached a milestone last week. It was announced that $300 million in college scholarships had been awarded since the lottery began three years ago.
More than 90,000 Arkansas students have received an Academic Challenge Scholarship in those three years.
The state lottery sold $475 million in tickets in Fiscal 2012. After paying out prizes, advertising and covering administrative expenses, what money remains goes for Academic Challenge Scholarships for students at Arkansas four-year universities and two-year colleges.
Last fiscal year the lottery raised $97.5 million for college scholarships for Arkansas students. The director of the lottery has lowered his estimate for this year, from about $98 million to about $90 million.
Sales of lottery tickets were boosted last week because of a record Powerball prize of $587.5 million, but the long-term trend has been for sales to gradually drop as the initial enthusiasm wears off. Other factors that influence lottery ticket sales are the unemployment rate and inflation, especially in gasoline prices.
The first full year the lottery was Fiscal 2011, when $464 million in tickets were sold. The first Arkansas lottery tickets were sold in September of 2009, and $373 million in tickets were sold in the nine months of the first fiscal year that the Arkansas lottery was in operation.
The first group of students to get lottery scholarships received $5,000 if they attended a four-year university and $2,500 if they studied at two-year colleges.
However, the legislature later had to lower the amounts by 10 percent, to $4,500 and $2,250, to make sure there would be enough money available.
Further reductions in scholarship amounts are possible when the legislature convenes in regular session in January. The director of the state Higher Education Department has said that if $90 million a year for scholarships comes in, amounts would have to decrease to $3,300 and $1,650 per student per year.
Another proposal would gradually raise scholarship amounts for each year the student stays in college or university. Under the proposal, a freshman would receive $2,000 for the year, a sophomore $3,000, a junior $4,000 and a senior $5,000.
Students who in 2010 were awarded $5,000 for attending a four-year university or $2,500 to attend a two-year college will continue to receive those amounts as long as they maintain their eligibility. Similarly, students who first qualified for $4,500 and $2,250 will continue to receive those amounts throughout their college career, as long as they keep up their grades.
New Veterans Home
Legislation has been drafted to authorize the building of a new veterans nursing home in Little Rock, to replace the facility that was closed earlier this year. The 70 residents were moved to other nursing homes.
Repairs to the facility, including heating, cooling, heating and air conditioning would have cost an estimated $10 million. The director of the state Veterans Affairs Department was replaced after reports of financial mismanagement surfaced earlier this year. A House bill has been filed to authorize construction of a new home with space for up to 150 people.
The state also operates a veterans nursing home in Fayetteville.