Blacks Losing Ground in the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarships

Over the past three years the state lottery has provided more than $750 million to the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation for college scholarships. In order to be eligible for the scholarships a student must have earned a grade point average of 3.0 in high school or have achieved a score of 21 on the American College Testing Program’s ACT standardized test for college admission. Nationwide the average score for blacks on the ACT test is 17 on a 1 to 36 scoring scale. Less than one in five black students scores 21 or above on the ACT.

Students enrolling at a four-year college in Tennessee receive annual scholarships of $3,800. Students enrolling at two-year community colleges receive $1,900 scholarships. To retain their scholarship, students must achieve a grade point average in college of 2.75 during their freshman year. For upperclassmen, a grade point average of 3.0 must be achieved to renew their scholarships.

New data from the state lottery shows that blacks are losing ground. In 2004 blacks made up 19 percent of the students enrolled at public colleges and universities in Tennessee. Yet they made up only 10 percent of the students who qualified for lottery scholarships. In 2006 blacks were only 8 percent of the students who qualified for the scholarships.

The education lottery scholarships also disproportionately benefit students from more affluent families. Students from families with incomes below $36,000 a year make up 48 percent of all enrollments at Tennessee’s state-operated institutions of higher education. But only 24 percent of all education lottery recipients come families at that income level.