State Capitol Week in Review – December 5, 2020

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas college students who receive lottery scholarships had until the first of October to document successful completion of summer coursework, in order to maintain their eligibility this fall.


With the passing of that deadline, the state Department of Higher Education is able to compile a final report to legislators on the numbers and types of students who receive lottery scholarships, which are known as Academic Challenge Scholarships. They are funded mostly with revenue from the sale of lottery tickets.


Currently, there are 31,649 students receiving scholarships valued at $90,631,361. Those students had a combined grade point average of 3.49 in high school and an average score of 23.4 on their ACTs. While in college, they have maintained a GPA of 3.07 while earning 25 hours. Their parents’ incomes average $74,041 a year.


The ACT is a standardized test used by universities and colleges for admission and placement.


The legislature closely monitors scholarship numbers, especially members of the Legislative Council’s Lottery Oversight Committee. After Arkansas voters approved the lottery in 2008, the legislature enacted enabling laws in the 2009 session.


Since then lawmakers have changed scholarship amounts and eligibility criteria to maintain the financial viability of the program. Freshmen receive $1,000 and if they maintain their eligibility they receive $4,000 as sophomores and as juniors, and $5,000 as seniors.


Students at two-year colleges get $1,000 their first year and $3,000 the second year.

The amounts now being awarded are different than students received if they originally were awarded a scholarship before the 2016-2017 school year.


There are 19,159 female students getting lottery scholarships, compared to 12,159 male students. The Higher Education Department doesn’t know the gender of 331 students.

The state Lottery Office is within the Department of Finance and Administration. Last fiscal year it had operating revenue of $532 million, most of which was returned as prizes to people who bought lottery tickets.


Vision Screenings

In 2005 the legislature enacted more rigorous standards for screening young students who may have vision problems. Act 1438 of 2005 requires public and charter schools to test students in kindergarten through grade four, as well as sixth and eighth graders. Only certified school nurses may perform the vision screenings.


The act also requires regular reports to the legislature. This year Arkansas school nurses screened 251,246 students and 27,387 were referred for follow ups and possible treatment. Children with vision disorders are vulnerable to delays in their learning and development.


Revenue Report

Arkansas state revenue came in above forecast in November, in spite of the pandemic’s severe economic effect on the hospitality and recreation industry.


Revenue reports are accurate measures of economic activity. For the first five months of the current fiscal year, revenue is up 11.4 percent over last year.


Income tax collections, which reflect job activity, are up 15.5 percent over the same period of last year. Sales tax revenue, which is an indicator of how much people are spending, is up 9.1 percent over last year.


Even though revenue numbers were good, the state’s economic forecaster cautions that Arkansas businesses face many unknowns in the second half of the fiscal year.


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