The Banner-Herald’s Jan. 10 editorial, headlined “HOPE funding problems are opportunity,” is an unfortunate over-reaction to the current situation regarding the funding of the state’s lottery-funded HOPE collegiate scholarship program.
The editorial contended that, given the fiscal challenges now facing the lottery and HOPE — challenges which have already forced some cuts in the scholarship — state lawmakers should consider various strategies for limiting the number of students eligible for the award.
However, when Gov. Zell Miller first envisioned the HOPE scholarship, his desire was to create a broad program that would reach the greatest number of Georgia families. Gov. Miller’s goal was to keep the brightest college students within the state, which would strengthen Georgia’s higher-education system, attract new business to the state, and foster growth in existing Georgia companies.
This has happened. Georgia’s institutions of higher education have all benefited from the HOPE Scholarship and Georgia business has grown substantially during the past 18 years.
The editorial also ignores the benefits that are derived through the lottery-funded pre-kindergarten program. More than 1.1 million young Georgians have benefited from this initiative, which provides our children he tools and foundation to succeed in their education.
To restrict the recipients of the HOPE programs, as suggested in the editorial, would reduce the benefits that HOPE has provided. All of the advances and gains made since 1993 in the Georgia higher education system and in the Georgia economy would gradually be undone.
Rather than radically revamp the HOPE scholarship and pre-k programs, lottery officials should look at new and innovative ways to expand sales so that HOPE continues to reach as many Georgians as possible.
During my years serving on the Georgia Lottery’s board of directors, and my term as board chair, the board, together with lottery management, continually looked to grow through new and exciting products. The “creativity” called for in the editorial should not be changing the beneficiaries of the HOPE programs, but should be focused on growing lottery sales to successfully fund the HOPE and pre-k programs for further generations of Georgians.
The lottery has been continually expanding its games and products since its inception. What started out as a modest offering of a handful of draw games and a few scratch tickets has grown to a product offering more draw games, the two national games of MegaMillions and Powerball, scratch tickets at variable price points, and Keno and lottery kiosks at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, just to name a few.
All of these expansions over the years have resulted in growth in lottery sales, which means growth in the revenue generated for HOPE. As we continue to move into the future, new opportunities present themselves. As an entity built upon a business model, the Georgia Lottery, like any business, must continue to evolve so as to keep its products fresh and new. As a former lottery board chairperson once stated, “the company that manufactures the best buggy-whips today is not going to be very successful.”
The Georgia Lottery, too, must continue to expand its products to promote growth in sales. In addition to the video lottery terminals mentioned in the editorial, there also exists the possibility to offer lottery tickets through the Internet. Such sales would only be allowed within Georgia, and there would be a regulatory process to guarantee age, location and frequency of play. These opportunities, together with the current offering of lottery products, could attract new players and increase the revenue for the HOPE and pre-k programs.
The editorial suggests that the lottery should stop expanding and accept continued sales that remain flat year over year. My desire would be for the lottery to continue to expand into new and exciting directions that would attract new players and guarantee the future that Gov. Miller envisioned.