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Education wins big in state lottery

Rex Barber • Jul 17, 2012 at 10:02 PM

East Tennessee State University students received more than $20 million in scholarships derived from the Tennessee Lottery this past school year.

The Tennessee Lottery funds the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship program. This program provides money for college for Tennesseans. The first funds for these scholarships were given out in 2004. There are several levels of the scholarship program depending on student need and academic performance in high school, according to Kathy Feagins, director of ETSU’s scholarship office.

At ETSU this past academic year 2,983 students had the basic HOPE Scholarship that gives a $2,000 award per semester. These students were given $11,013,000.

The next level of scholarship is called the General Assembly Merit Scholarship and is given to students with a high ACT score and a high GPA in high school. This award is worth $2,500 per semester. The 290 students who were given this award received $1,463,125.

Another scholarship called the Aspire Award is given to students who meet the requirements for the basic HOPE scholarship and also have a significant financial need. This award gives $2,750 per semester. There were 1,346 students given this award for a total of $6,814,754.

Non-traditional students can also get TELS money. These students must be at least 25 and a Tennessee resident with an adjusted gross income of less than $36,000. The non-traditional student must be a first-time college student. Then these students will only get money after completing 12 hours of class and maintaining a 2.75 GPA. This award provides $2,000 per semester. This past academic year 208 non-traditional ETSU students got $716,250 with the TELS program.

These award amounts will not change for the upcoming academic year. A student at ETSU who plans on taking 15 hours of class per semester would have a tuition and fees bill of $6,997 for the year next school year. If that same student had the basic HOPE scholarship he or she would have $4,000 for the year, leaving $2,997 for the student to pay for a year of classes, or slightly less than $1,500 per semester. That does not include books, dorm room, food or other expenses related to college.

The criteria for obtaining a HOPE award has not changed much other than for students who first received the scholarship in the fall of 2009. Students who got the scholarship after this point can now get lottery money for summer classes but they are also capped at taking only 120 credit hours, whether they pass or fail any of those hours. If they take or attempt more than 120 hours, they must pay for them some other way. This manly affects students who drop courses and those with double majors or minors. Most degrees take 120 hours to complete.

Students who got HOPE scholarships before fall 2009 can not use the scholarship for summer terms but can take all the hours they want until they get a degree or five years has passed.

At ETSU, about a third of the students loose their lottery scholarship for failing to maintain a certain GPA, but they can earn it back, Feagins said.

Tennessee lottery officials announced Monday the lottery has raised more than $323 million this year for state education programs, the eighth consecutive record-setting year.

The figure is a 10.2 percent increase — or roughly $30 million — over last year’s then-record of $293.4 million, officials said in a news release.

Data from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corp., which oversees lottery-funded programs, show more than 600,000 scholarships have been awarded to in-state education institutions since the lottery’s inception in 2004.

Total education funding since then stands at more than $2 billion.

“Across the corporation we’ve focused on our mission to serve Tennessee students and their families by maximizing proceeds for the education programs funded by the lottery,” Rebecca Hargrove, president and CEO of the lottery, said in the release.

A Republican-backed proposal that failed during the recent Tennessee General Assembly sought to cut students’ lottery scholarships in half, depending on lottery revenues.

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