by Max Brantley
This train has left the station en route to passage, but gubernatorial candidate Bill Halter, who led creation of the Arkansas Lottery, says legislation to alter scholarship amounts will inevitably reduce the number going to college, the opposite of the lottery's aim.
The bill — an apparent consensus compromise — will give all entering college students (at four-year or community colleges) $2,000. Each year after, students at four-year colleges can qualify for an additional $1,000 up to $5,000 in their fourth year. Currently, four-year students get $4,500 a year and two-year students get $2,250. It's a cut for all, though a bigger percentage hit on four-year students. On its face, it seems likely to push more marginal students toward a community college rather than a four-year institution, but only experience will show that for sure. The bill was approved in a House committee yesterday and no significant opposition has surfaced to passage in either house as yet.
Former Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter today blasted HB 1295 as a legislative proposal that ignores the express intent of Arkansans by dramatically altering the state’s scholarship lottery program that they approved in 2008.
“This legislation will make it significantly more difficult for Arkansas students to achieve a higher education,” said Halter. “With virtually no warning to tens of thousands of parents and students, this bill fundamentally changes the program to the point where it will reduce the number of Arkansas students able to enter a state college or university. It's a bad idea for students and parents and it's a bad idea for Arkansas.”
"The fact that more students have received the scholarship than was initially projected is an enormous success that deserves to be built upon rather than cut,” said Halter. “Arkansans approved the scholarship lottery to offer greater opportunities for higher education in our state.”
"This bill ignores the expectations of Arkansans who voted overwhelmingly for the scholarship lottery that passed with clear majorities in every legislative district in Arkansas," said Halter.
“We must do more to expand opportunity for Arkansans and to strengthen our workforce to help build and attract better paying jobs. This legislation undercuts all of these goals,” said Halter.