Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, the father of the Arkansas lottery, naturally finds much to like at the conclusion of the first year of the lottery, particularly a tripling of students receiving state scholarship assistance.
Enrollment is up at most colleges, but it's also up nationwide and it's a little early yet to precisely gauge the lottery's impact on college-going and retention rates. But it's safe to guess the 29,000 scholarship recipients and their family members are satisfied customers.
Halter offers a number of suggestions for improvements, particularly in the marketing, application and notification processes.
BILL HALTER STATEMENT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (September 28, 2010) — More than 29,000 Arkansas students are attending Arkansas colleges and universities this fall with a big financial assist from the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, which marks its one-year anniversary today. Higher education institutions statewide report record enrollments and college administrators credit the significant impact of the lottery-funded scholarship program.
“As predicted, in the 365 days since the first lottery tickets went on sale, we have more than tripled the number of state-administered scholarships awarded to Arkansas students enrolled in Arkansas colleges and universities,” Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter said today. The Scholarship Lottery has generated more than $485 million in gross revenue, exceeding budget forecasts of the Arkansas Lottery Commission.
The Arkansas Department of Higher Education is projecting that 29,119 Arkansas students (and counting) will receive the lottery-funded Academic Challenge scholarships this fall, compared with 8,282 Academic Challenge scholarships awarded a year ago.
As reported by Arkansas State University’s student newspaper, The Herald, “A whole lot of people have $5,000 more than they had before.” (The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Act lifted family income limits that previously were in place for Academic Challenge applicants.)
Some statistics are remarkable, such as the whopping 30.5 percent increase in first-time freshmen entering the University of Arkansas flagship campus in Fayetteville compared with a year ago. In Arkadelphia, Henderson State University reports a 27 percent surge in first-time students as it welcomed its largest freshman class in its 120-year history.
Elsewhere, Arkansas State University, ASU-Mountain Home, Arkansas Tech University, Pulaski Technical College, Southern Arkansas University, University of Arkansas at Monticello and University of Arkansas at Fort Smith report record enrollments based on headcounts taken on the 11th day of classes. Official fall 2010 enrollment figures will be released in mid-October.
“Arkansas voters paved the way for this dramatic investment in higher education and increase in college enrollment when they voted 638,000 strong for a Scholarship Lottery,” Halter said. “Students and families today are reaping the benefits of the voters’ choice.”
Looking ahead, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery program can be strengthened in future legislative sessions. Improvements to the process should include:
· Acceleration of the scholarship application review process to ensure that graduating high school seniors receive notice of their awards within one month of submitting their application. The process also must be sped up so that current achievers and nontraditional students are notified much earlier.
· Assignment of sufficient Arkansas Department of Higher Education staff to answer a toll-free help line for Arkansas students and families and to respond immediately to questions about eligibility rules, the application process and application follow-up.
· Development of a pro-active communications strategy designed to inform all Arkansas students and families by e-mail, social media networks, TV and radio public service announcements, and free print media where available about the scholarship program.
· Refinement of the definition of a non-traditional student and simplification of the academic criteria a non-traditional student must meet to qualify for a scholarship.
· A comprehensive assessment and report on the distribution of lottery-funded scholarships, including a breakdown of awards across income levels, by county, by high school, and by institution of higher education chosen by the recipient. This study should be expanded later to include information about dropout and retention rates among award recipients and other data that will help gauge the impact of the scholarships.
“We are on track to produce more than $1 billion over 10 years for college scholarships. Our elected officials, higher education administrators, teachers, counselors, parents, grandparents and everyone with an interest in advancing Arkansas should work together to improve access to a college education for as many of our residents as possible while remaining wary of anticipated attempts to undermine the success of the Scholarship Lottery,” Lieutenant Governor Halter said.