Lottery: Scholarship funds pass $300 million

Posted: December 10, 2012 at 1:16 p.m.

Arkansas Lottery scholarship contributions surpassed $300 million by the end of November, lottery officials said Monday.

More than 90,000 scholarships have been awarded since lottery sales began in September 2009, Director Bishop Woosley said in a statement, adding that the lottery has averaged $7.9 million per month in scholarships in those 38 months.

Shane Broadway, interim director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and a former state senator, said in late November that the scholarship program would “go into the red and ... never come back” by the fall of 2014 if the Legislature awards the coming year’s first-time recipients $4,500 a year for the universities and $2,250 a year for the colleges, keeps scholarship amounts for existing recipients at their current levels, and if the lottery raised $90 million a year, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported at the time.

Broadway said the scholarship program could afford to award $3,300-a-year and $1,650-a-year scholarships to first-time recipients in the coming school year and through their senior years “without going totally in the red” and exhausting its $20 million reserve fund. He said he based that on a projection of the lottery raising $90 million a year for the scholarships.

State Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home and state Rep. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville, the co-chairmen of the Legislature's lottery oversight committee, said the committee will meet this month to reach consensus on what program changes to recommend to the Legislature.

Information in this story was contributed by Michael Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.