by Max Brantley
More than 25,000 college students have qualified for lottery scholarship. Huzzah, they and their families say.
On the other hand, almost 30,000 who applied did not qualify for money. A grandmother of one writes:
My grandson, who is a student at ASU, was denied a scholarship. My question is: Is there something wrong with this picture when less than half the applicants were granted scholarships?
The test-score and grade-point requirements always meant that many would be left on the sidelines. The first gush of money is big news. But there's much interesting data to come. How many students will go to college who otherwise would not have gone but for the lottery money? That may be the most critical element in examining the larger worth of the program. What is the demographic breakdown — not just race, but gender and economic background — of those who received money? And, in later years, what is the demographic breakdown of those who do well enough in college to retain lottery scholarship funding? Then, do graduation rates improve?
Money is money. All who get it are understandably happy. But it will be interesting to know if Arkansas has created a vast new government giveaway program on the backs of gamblers that amounts to an entitlement for people who were better situated to begin with.
UPDATE: The Higher Education Department is apparently catching hell from unhappy applicants. It has issued a further news release — reported here on the Mid-Riffs blog — explaining how scholarships were apportioned. All recent high school grads who met qualifying standards got scholarships. The rub seems to come for students already in college and whether they were considered "non-traditional students." There wasn't sufficient money for all students already in college and different standards applied, including a preference for certain courses of study.