TN lottery's HOPE scholarships could be expanded to summer tuition

6:55 AM, May 5, 2011   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

By Jennifer Brooks, The Tennessean

Over the past seven years, Tennesseans bought $7.5 billion worth of state lottery tickets and raised $2 billion for education along the way.

That's lucky for Tennessee education, which finds new ways to spend that money every year.

This week, Gov. Bill Haslam asked the legislature to take the HOPE lottery scholarship program, which offsets tuition for every Tennessee high school student who can maintain a B average at an in-state college, and extend it to include summer school tuition. The proposal would cost the state an initial $22 million - money that would come out of the large but slowly dwindling lottery surplus - but could help students graduate faster and easier.

"I took a summer class last summer. One class cost $1,000. My mom almost had a heart attack," said Emily Canady of Nashville, a junior majoring in business at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Rather than risk more expensive summer coursework, Canady loaded her schedule up with a heavy 18-credit hour load each semester. She was careful to keep her grade point average at a healthy 3.7 and not jeopardize the lottery scholarship that offsets the bulk of her tuition. She's on track to graduate in December, a semester early.

"Kids are graduating so much later because they can't afford summer classes," she said. "This would be a definite improvement."

In Tennessee, where only 43 percent of university students graduate in less than six years, lottery scholarships, and other lottery-funded educational programs, are one way to help students get into school and stay there. So state lottery officials announced Wednesday's landmark fundraising totals with a certain amount of satisfaction.

"Our mission has always been to raise as many dollars as possible, as responsibly as possible, to impact as many students as possible through the dollars we raise," said Rebecca Hargrove, president and CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp.

Of the $7.5 billion in lottery tickets sold over the years, $4.5 billion was paid out in prizes, half a billion was paid out to the retailers who sell the tickets, and the rest went to lottery administration. The remaining $2 billion has been distributed among 11 lottery scholarship programs: from after-school enrichment programs, the HOPE, dual-enrollment programs, Wilder-Naifeh scholarships at Tennessee Technology Centers, merit scholarships and programs to help returning veterans go to college.

More than 100,000 students received lottery scholarships this year.

"It's the reason so many students are staying in Tennessee," said Caroline Knobloch, whose son Thomas will be using the HOPE scholarship to attend the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga this fall. "Going to college is a cost issue. If you can stay in state and get a scholarship, it is a huge factor."

A HOPE scholarship knocks $4,000 off the price of tuition at public and private universities in Tennessee and saves two-year college students $2,000 a year. To qualify, students must enter college with at least a score of 21 on their ACT college entrance exam and maintain a cumulative 3.0 grade point average.

Some $350 million in lottery profits also sit in a surplus fund that is slowly being eroded each year, as lottery scholarship programs expand. Last year, the fund dwindled by about $4 million, Hargrove said. This year, state education officials estimate the scholarship fund could shrink by $15 million, even before the $22 million necessary for summer HOPE scholarships.

It remains to be seen whether the legislature will approve the governor's request to extend the HOPEscholarships. Lawmakers introduced more than a dozen lottery scholarship bills this session, some that would expand the program, some that would cut back on its benefits, but the summer HOPE proposal probably is the only one that has a shot of being passed into law this year.

Middle Tennessee State University's sprawling campus empties out over the summer. There are still plenty of students and plenty of classes for them to take during the three summer sessions. But it's nothing like the bustle of fall and spring semester at the state's largest undergraduate campus.

"We would be absolutely delighted" if students could use their lottery scholarship funds over the summer, said Debra Sells, MTSU's vice president for student affairs. "The feedback from our students is that they want to take summer courses."

The Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. has launched www.seehowitaddsup.com to help the public track where lottery money is going.

Over the past seven years, Tennesseans bought $7.5 billion worth of state lottery tickets and raised $2 billion for education along the way.

That's lucky for Tennessee education, which finds new ways to spend that money every year.

This week, Gov. Bill Haslam asked the legislature to take the HOPE lottery scholarship program, which offsets tuition for every Tennessee high school student who can maintain aB average at an in-state college, and extend it to include summer school tuition. The proposal would cost the state an initial $22 million - money that would come out of the large but slowly dwindling lottery surplus - but could help students graduate faster and easier.

"I took a summer class last summer. One class cost $1,000. My mom almost had a heart attack," said Emily Canady of Nashville, a junior majoring in business at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Rather than risk more expensive summer coursework, Canady loaded her schedule up with a heavy 18-credit hour load each semester. She was careful to keep her grade point average at a healthy 3.7 and not jeopardize the lottery scholarship that offsets the bulk of her tuition. She's on track to graduate in December, a semester early.

"Kids are graduating so much later because they can't afford summer classes," she said. "This would be a definite improvement."

In Tennessee, where only 43 percent of university students graduate in less than six years, lottery scholarships, and other lottery-funded educational programs, are one way to help students get into school and stay there. So state lottery officials announced Wednesday's landmark fundraising totals with a certain amount of satisfaction.

"Our mission has always been to raise as many dollars as possible, as responsibly as possible, to impact as many students as possible through the dollars we raise," said Rebecca Hargrove, president and CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp.

Of the $7.5 billion in lottery tickets sold over the years, $4.5 billion was paid out in prizes, half a billion was paid out to the retailers who sell the tickets, and the rest went to lottery administration. The remaining $2 billion has been distributed among 11 lottery scholarship programs: from after-school enrichment programs, the HOPE, dual-enrollment programs, Wilder-Naifeh scholarships at Tennessee Technology Centers, merit scholarships and programs to help returning veterans go to college.

More than 100,000 students received lottery scholarships this year.

"It's the reason so many students are staying in Tennessee," said Caroline Knobloch, whose son Thomas will be using the HOPE scholarship to attend the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga this fall. "Going to college is a cost issue. If you can stay in state and get a scholarship, it is a huge factor."

A HOPE scholarship knocks $4,000 off the price of tuition at public and private universities in Tennessee and saves two-year college students $2,000 a year. To qualify, students must enter college with at least a score of 21 on their ACT exam and maintain a cumulative 3.0 grade point average.

Some $350 million in lottery profits also sit in a surplus fund that is slowly being eroded each year, as lottery scholarship programs expand. Last year, the fund dwindled by about $4 million, Hargrove said. This year, officials estimate the scholarship fund could shrink by $15 million, even before the $22 million necessary for summer HOPE scholarships.

It remains to be seen whether the legislature will approve the governor's request to extend the scholarships. Lawmakers introduced more than a dozen lottery scholarship bills this session, some that would expand the program, some that would cut back on its benefits, but the summer HOPE proposal probably is the only one that has a shot of being passed into law this year.

Middle Tennessee State University's sprawling campus empties out over the summer. There are still plenty of students and plenty of classes for them to take during the three summer sessions. But it's nothing like the bustle of fall and spring semester at the state's largest undergraduate campus.

"We would be absolutely delighted" if students could use their lottery scholarship funds over the summer, said Debra Sells, MTSU's vice president for student affairs. "The feedback from our students is that they want to take summer courses."

The Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. has launched www.seehowitaddsup.com to help the public track where lottery money is going.

Most Watched Videos