One of the selling points of the Arkansas Lottery was that it would send more students to college and bring more college graduates into Arkansas’ workforce. However, as the Lottery celebrates its fifth anniversary, college graduation statistics seem to show the Arkansas Lottery isn’t living up to its promises.
According to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education, from 2002 to 2007 Arkansas’ graduation rate rose roughly 5%. In 2002, 15% of college students in Arkansas graduated in 4 years, and 35% graduated in 6 years. By 2007, 20.7% of students graduated in 4 years, and 40% graduated in 6 years.
Since 2007, however, the graduation rates have remained fairly flat. By 2010 only 19.7% of Arkansas college students graduated in 4 years, and 38.7% graduated in 6.
Looking at reports from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, we see the numbers aren’t any better for 2011 or 2012.
In 2011, 39.5% of college students in Arkansas graduated in 6 years. In 2012 the number was 40.8%–roughly on par with 2007 levels.
Since the Arkansas Lottery’s inception, college graduation rates in Arkansas have not shown significant improvement. The Lottery just doesn’t seem to be making a difference.
What’s also interesting are the enrollment numbers. Enrollment in college has increased, on average, for quite some time now. More recently, the number of students enrolling in undergraduate programs statewide in Arkansas rose by 7.6% from 2009 to 2013. However, from 2005 – 2009, the number of undergraduates enrolling in college in Arkansas rose by 13.7%–without a state-run lottery.
Bottom Line: The Arkansas Lottery seems to have little bearing on college enrollment numbers, either.
In 2008, Arkansans were told a lottery scholarship program would send more students to college and bring more college graduates into Arkansas’ workforce. Looking at the numbers, that simply does not seem to be the case. College enrollment has increased, but not any more than might be expected under normal conditions. And the college graduation rate has remained roughly the same since before the Lottery came along. As far as we can tell, the Arkansas Lottery hasn’t lived up to its promises when it comes to college enrollment and graduation.
Six years ago, we speculated that all a state-run lottery might do is change the way people pay for college–not actually send more students there. Instead of borrowing money, for example, students might apply for a lottery scholarship. That doesn’t sound so bad until you consider the way a state-run lottery pulls money out of the local community and hurts the poor. In fact, we have demonstrated before that a 4/10-cent sales tax increase could pay for more college scholarships than the Arkansas Lottery does and do less harm to our economy and our neighbors.
When it comes to state-run lotteries, there seem to be no two ways about it: The harm simply outweighs the benefit.