|Why do Holston colleges accept lottery scholarships?
by Suzanne C. Hickerson
Hiwassee College President Jim Noseworthy recently observed a man at a Tennessee convenience store purchasing $34 worth of lottery tickets.
I'm a winner! I'm a winner! the man shouted as he returned to the checkout counter to claim his $2 cash prize.
Until recently Tennessee was one of just three states with no legalized gambling. The state's lottery, which benefits education, has many church leaders worried about the negative effect it could have on the moral and financial well-being of individuals and their families.
My personal feeling is the lottery is not a good idea, Noseworthy said. People use money they could use for something else
I don't think the lottery itself is a positive move. People wanted the lottery. Was the lottery established to help students or were scholarships established to help the lottery? I am not sure it is a noble cause.
In the November 2002 election, the majority of Tennessee voters supported an amendment to the state constitution, permitting the legislature to institute a lottery. The measure, which passed with 58 percent of the vote, limits the use of the lottery proceeds to educational purposes, such as college scholarships.
For the first time since instituting the lottery, college freshmen and incoming students applied for lottery scholarships this spring and will receive the first round of lottery money this fall. Qualifying students attending four-year institutions will receive $3,000, and qualifying students attending two-year institutions will receive $1,500.
Two of the three Holston colleges are located in Tennessee. Both Hiwassee College in Madisonville and Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens are accepting lottery scholarship funding, despite the church's view on gambling.
In Emory, Va, Emory & Henry College does not benefit from Virginia lottery money because the institution is private. The school does provide a matching grant for Tennessee students to encourage them to come to Emory & Henry without sacrificing financial aid they would have received in their home state, according to Dirk Moore, Emory & Henry director of public relations.
In the year leading up to the vote, several religious groups, including the United Methodist Church, banned together to oppose the lottery. Also, Holston Conference officials approved a resolution in 2001 opposing the Tennessee lottery. The lottery is in opposition to what United Methodists believe, because gambling is considered harmful and creates moral and financial problems, according to the resolution and the church's Book of Discipline.
Although the Tennessee lottery is now a reality, the church's position has not changed, said Anne Travis, Holston director of connectional ministries.
As Christians, we need to continue to lift up the impact of gambling and look at what this is doing to lives, she said. The strongest voice we have is not buying a lottery ticket
It's a tough one. It really puts us in a moral dilemma as a conference. We are really in a bind.
Belief vs. financial need
Two of Holston's three colleges are located in Tennessee Hiwassee and Tennessee Wesleyan and both are participating in the state's lottery scholarship program. Although it was never formally discussed whether the two schools should reject lottery money, officials said they didn't have much choice due to funding limitations and the fear of losing students to other schools if they did not accept the money.
At the same time church leaders campaigned against the lottery, Holston Conference suffered extreme budget cuts of 60 percent across all ministries, according to Travis. Prior to 2002, each of the conference's colleges received approximately $200,000 annually. In 2003, Emory & Henry received $80,000, while Hiwassee and Tennessee Wesleyan received $130,000 each. In 2004, each school will receive $85,000 in conference funding.
If the conference said we don't want the United Methodist schools to take the lottery money, then I would be willing to sit down at the table and explore how the conference could step up and help the schools. But to make that happen we need to have resources to provide scholarships, Noseworthy said.
Tennessee Wesleyan President Thomas Armstrong said that whether one approves or disapproves of gambling, students deserve the opportunity to earn a college education.
We really looked at the issue as a matter of student aid. We cannot always control the source of student aid. It's an opportunity for students. We owe it to our students in the name of higher education. The task of providing an affordable education can be a daunting one, officials say. Variables such as health insurance, personnel costs, cost of technology and educational materials, as well as maintaining buildings and campus facilities, must be considered.
Hiwassee College has experienced nearly a 100 percent increase in health insurance costs in the last three years, according to Noseworthy. Health insurance costs increased by 20 percent for the last two years and nearly 50 percent three years ago, he explained.
Both Noseworthy and Armstrong emphasized the importance of maintaining a competitive salary for college faculty and staff. The costs of maintaining and upgrading technology, library books and other educational materials have also greatly increased in recent years, they said. According to Armstrong, the cost of living has increased about 2 to 4 percent over the last decade, while the cost of library materials has increased by double-digits.
Rising costs and budget cuts have led to higher tuition and fees at both Tennessee colleges, increasing the need for lottery scholarships.
If we had the resources, we wouldn't be concerned with it, Noseworthy added, referring to the lottery funding.
Full-time, in-state students attending Hiwassee paid $7,800 for tuition and fees during the 2002-03 and the 2003-04 school years, according to Ron Hemphill, associate vice president for financial aid. During the upcoming 2004-05 academic year, the cost will increase to $8,860, which does not include the cost of room and board.
About 80 percent of Hiwassee's 450 students receive some form of financial aid, according to Hemphill. Due in part to the new lottery scholarships, the school has experienced a 23 percent increase in the number of student financial-aid applications filed this year over the previous year.
The cost of tuition and fees, not including room and board, has increased at Tennessee Wesleyan each of the last three years for full-time, in-state students. During the 2002-03 academic year, students paid $10,280 for tuition and fees. The cost increased in 2003-04 to $11,340 and to $12,340 for the upcoming 2004-05 academic year, according to Gina Bever, Tennessee Wesleyan director of public and media relations.
About 92 percent of Tennessee Wesleyan's 800 students receive some form of financial aid, according to Bob Perry, director of financial aid. Because the ultimate goal is to provide students with a quality education, officials agree lottery scholarships are necessary.
I don't think we can not take the money,' Travis said, referring to church leaders' concern that students may go elsewhere if Hiwassee and Tennessee Wesleyan decided to refuse lottery scholarship money.
Looking to the future, educators are uncertain of the overall effect the lottery will have on students and their respective institutions.
Several educators said they are concerned the lottery money could provide students with a false promise, due to the high academic standards required for maintaining the scholarship. Once a student loses his or her lottery scholarship, they are unable to reapply.
Perry wonders if lost lottery scholarships will cause students to acquire more loan debt or force students to leave school all together.
While Hemphill points out that lottery money is providing financial aid for a group of students who typically do not qualify for either academic or athletic scholarships, he also is concerned about future funding and the lottery's long-term effects.
My greatest fear is that state funding will be curtailed, especially during tight budget times, Hemphill said. I hope the current funding level will continue for the Tennessee Student Assistance Award.'' Officials as well as students will have to wait and see how it all plays out.
We have all year characterized the lottery as a moving target, Armstrong said. `Things are up in the air. ¡&Mac189;
Hickerson is a free-lance writer living in Forest, Va. with high hopes for Tennessee Wesleyan College.
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