Lottery Scholarships: an odd view

Eligibility for the Tennessee Lottery Scholarship is very simple: a 3.0 grade point average upon graduation from high school, or a 21 on the ACT (required for admission to all Tennessee public universities).

Either / Or.

It allows for both kinds of students to succeed: those who have learned the material and can adequately perform on a test, as well as those who have learned the material and demonstrated as much in classroom performance, regardless of test-taking ability.

It is rather generous in terms of the preparation needed to succeed in a 4-year college or university, allowing also those who will seek an associate’s degree, technical school, or who will attend community college first.

Yet, Sen. Thelma Harper blasts the lottery scholarship program in today’s Chattanooga Times:

State Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville, today criticized the Tennessee Education Lottery scholarship program for shortchanging black and low-income students, calling it a “disgrace.”

“I want you to tell me what’s wrong that black people can’t get scholarships,” she told members of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s regular quarterly meeting. “It sends a horrible message, and someone needs to re-evaluate how those lottery scholarships are being made.”

It’s a deeper question, Sen. Harper. The problem is not with the lottery scholarship; it’s with educating poor and black students to the same levels as everyone else. Any student who cannot attain either a 3.0 GPA or a 21 on the ACT doesn’t need to be in college — they cannot and will not succeed.

The problem is, to a large degree, cultural. It is one of role models, and of “fitting in” with the various groups of other students that inevitably form in school. It is a problem to some degree of parental involvement, expectations, and discipline.

Playing the race card in this way insultingly implies that poor and black students are unable to attain these minimum standards for college readiness — and it just isn’t true. They ARE able.

The real question is, how do we make them want to attain a higher educational standard?

6 Responses to “Lottery Scholarships: an odd view”

  1. on 26 Jan 2007 at 7:32 pm A question:


    You’re quite in-the-know so I hope you don’t mind me asking: all I hear about the TN Lottery is to aid HS graduates, but what about those who have been out of HS for a while? I’m 26 and haven’t been in college for a a few years; is there any program from it that could aid me?

  2. on 26 Jan 2007 at 8:24 pm Tracy

    We can’t make then want to put effort into their studies. They have the same opportunities as white kids. Schools are integrated – same teachers, same classrooms. Like you say, it has to come from the home with discipline and consequences. There are many black kids who do well in school that come from the same atmosphere – it has to come from the parents or guardians. The kids will fall in line if there are consequences to bad grades or misbehavior.

  3. on 26 Jan 2007 at 11:17 pm AT

    To jump in, Antonio, at this point, unless the rules changed very, very recently, only newly graduated high schoolers are eligible, leaving the rest of the college bound empty handed.
    Talk to the financial advisers. It ain’t hard to get on a pell, or at least on some subsidized loans.

  4. on 27 Jan 2007 at 6:34 am Netmom

    Actually, there IS a non-traditional student component to the lottery program, but only for those who have never enrolled in college before, and who are at least 25 years old.

    On the lottery scholarship page, scroll down to the bottom.

  5. on 27 Jan 2007 at 7:01 am Joel

    So Harper wants to take the “scholar” out of “scholarship?” Oy.

  6. on 27 Jan 2007 at 10:08 am PunkHP

    While I was in Graduate School, the Lottery was instituted. UT said that they had the largest increase in minority students ever. It looks like the State Board of regents would have info on monority increases listed somewhere.

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