ETSU, Northeast State brace for changes due to lottery scholarships

By Julie Fann
star staff

Constantly ringing telephones and heaping applications in the financial aid and admissions offices of universities across the state are keeping school officials busy dealing with the effects of a new state lottery. At local schools, a number of factors seem to be contributing to the hustle and bustle.
   "The lottery scholarships will create, and already have, more work for financial aid and the records office so that, even if we don't see enrollment increase, our workload will," said Kathy Seagins, assistant director of financial aid and scholarship programs at East Tennessee State University.
   It is hard to say if the lottery has caused an increase in awareness about FAFSA - the Free Application for Federal Student Aid which applicants must complete to be eligible for lottery money - or vice versa, according to Seagins, but her office has seen an increase in the number of students applying for federal aid.
   Seagins also said Monday that ETSU enrollment has steadily increased over the past five years in spite of continued budget cuts to higher education. "The number of applications that we have received does not reveal an increase this year over last year, but if you look at the past five years, the numbers have risen," she said. "We're having to accommodate more students with less money."
   Both Seagins and Jennifer Starling, director of enrollment services at Northeast State Technical Community College, do not know if the lottery alone has increased applications and interest or if there are other contributing factors.
   "I've also been going out to high schools and talking to students. It's hard to tell if it's a direct result of the lottery, but we have seen an increase in applicants and FAFSA applicants," Starling said.
   Officials at Northeast State are concerned that lottery scholarships may actually encourage students to look at four-year schools, since the amount of money available for students who elect to attend them is greater. "But students don't realize that they may get more money for those schools, but they also have to pay more to attend them," said Starling. She said the school is promoting its own benefits, which are smaller class sizes and more one-on-one attention.
   Students who apply to two-year colleges receive $1,500 from the lottery scholarship, while those who apply to four-year schools receive $3,000-$4,000.
   The Associated Press recently reported that state university officials are seeing roughly 10 percent to 20 percent more applications than at the same time last year.
   The lottery scholarships, worth roughly $12,000 over four years of college, will be available to students enrolling this fall.
   The lottery is expected to generate $88 million by July 1 to pay for scholarships for approximately 65,000 students.