published Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Lottery scholarships in jeopardy

However worthy the goal, Tennessee was unwise ever to implement a lottery for the purpose of funding college scholarships. Lotteries promote vice and create the illusion that society and individuals can get something for nothing.

But with the lottery now firmly in place, state officials are confronted with the fact that the revenue from it isn’t enough to sustain the scholarships as they now exist. In about 10 years, the program will run out of money if it isn’t reformed.

So there is talk in Nashville of either reducing how much money students receive through the scholarships or tightening the academic eligibility rules so that fewer students would be able to get the scholarship money.

The idea is to “make the lottery scholarship program viable in the long term,” said state Sen. Delores Gresham, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.

That may be easier said than done, though. It is virtually certain that any plan — however necessary — to rein in the scholarships will be met with fierce resistance.

It’s easy to offer benefits. But it’s hard to pull them back once people have grown accustomed to them.

That is why government should be so careful before offering a particular benefit in the first place.

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