Leader Blues

Saturday, October 24, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Lottery promise

Can’t anybody around the state Capitol write a decent lottery bill that’s clear and to the point? Jim Purcell, director of the state Department of Higher Education, told a legislative oversight committee Thursday that the lottery law is so poorly written that students now enrolled in college will get much smaller scholarships than those who start school next year.

Why would the state punish today’s college students in favor of teenagers who will pursue a higher education in the years to come? Amazingly, someone inserted language in the lottery law that shortchanges “non-traditional students,” who will get anywhere from $2.6 million to $8 million a year, while younger students coming up could qualify for up to $100 million a year.

Now, in everyday language, “non-traditional students” are part-timers or older students who decide to attend college long after high school. Why would Arkansas cheat those students when there are so many of them in the state? But the definition in the lottery act goes beyond that and includes full-time students who happened to have been born a few years too soon to get full benefits of the new lottery.

This type of discrimination makes no sense, since there will be plenty of scholarship money floating around when Arkies start spending upwards of $500 million a year as they chase their dream of instant riches. Why not give full scholarships to all students, traditional or non-traditional, if there’s excess scholarship money floating around?

Sen. Mary Anne Salmon (D-North Litte Rock) wants to amend the law and give at least $8 million a year to non-traditional students. The legislature needs to act so no college student is deprived of a decent education. Wasn’t that the promise of the new lottery?