Tinkering with the lottery | Arkansas Blog

Tinkering with the lottery

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Some Arkansas legislators, having heard the howls of unhappy parents, are set on tinkering with new Arkansas lottery scholarship rules, particularly to make more "non-traditional" students eligible. It turns out, in the mad rush, the state did a reasonable job of getting money into the hands of 26,000 or so students (the explanation and notification process needs work), but 3,900 or so current college students with sufficient GPAs were left out on account of variety of factors, chiefly that they hadn't made 12 hours of progress each semester toward a college degree. They are, thus, not "current achievers," but "non-traditional students."

Hard fact: The students plugging along in fits and starts toward a degree were never as big a focus of the program as new high school graduates. The ideas was to get more of them to go to college. And to get more of them to work hard enough to achieve acceptable grades and on course to speedy graduation. Some consideration had to be given to existing students, out of fairness, and every single current two-year-college student with adequate grades got money. A huge number of four-year students did as well. Inevitably, some were left out, however, as everyone knew would happen.

After a few years, we'll shake out coverage for a good percentage of those who had the misfortune of birth dates too old for full lottery scholarship consideration. The pot available for non-traditional students will be more likely to cover more of the needs in the years ahead as students arrive with scholarships and some lose them for failure to meet standards.

What we don't need to do is talk about raising the GPAs for qualification, as at least one legislator has proposed. This was not supposed to be a merit scholarship program. It was supposed to lift all boats — at least all those with the demonstrated ability through ACT score or GPA to do college work. There are already sufficient concerns that the recipients are heavily weighted toward the better situated economically (a bias that inevitably has racial implications). Legislators need not take steps to insure that this is yet another government program more favorable to those who need it less. It is no surprise, naturally, that a Republican has come up with this idea.

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