KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Playing the lottery is all about the money. In some states, what doesn’t go toward prizes goes toward a different type of award.
The owner of Ellistown Market just outside of Knoxville sells a lot of lottery tickets.
“About 70 percent of our customers come for lottery,” Pooja said. “Many people spend a lot of money.”
All that cash spent on tickets doesn’t always go toward the winning prize. Every time you play the odds, part of your money goes toward education.
“We get a lot of money from the lottery,” said Emily House, Deputy Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation in Nashville.
The concept started in Georgia in the 1990s with the HOPE Scholarship program. Now, Tennessee is one of more than 30 states that dedicates some amount of lottery profits to education.
The chunk of change available for Tennessee students grows every year, House said. Over 147,000 students statewide received lottery-funded scholarships during the 2018-19 year, almost $400 million worth.
“Since the inception of the lottery scholarship program in 2004, we have done over $5 billion in scholarship aid,” House said.
The Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation receives money from the lottery quarterly. The money is then given to higher education students through one of the 15 scholarship programs. One of the biggest programs is the HOPE Scholarship.
“All of these programs have grown,” House explained. “It’s very much keeping them in state.”
With the growth comes more students choosing to stay closer to home.
“Almost everyone I know from in-state has the HOPE Scholarship,” said Matthew Hubbard, a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Hubbard is majoring in math, statistics, and economics. The HOPE Scholarship helps him with covering costs like rent, tuition, and books.
“It’s eight semesters worth of scholarship money. It’s pretty impactful,” Hubbard said. “It definitely helps our family out a lot.”
Hubbard received just one of the nearly 1.5 million state scholarships given out in the past 16 years. As long as he maintains a certain GPA, he’s guaranteed funding through graduation.
“It actually pushes people to do well in college I think,” he said.
While the chance to cash in on a grand prize attracts ticket buyers, the state cashes in on education funding and the chance to keep high school students in state for college.
“Really the prime objective of establishing such a program was to keep high-achieving high school graduates in state for higher education,” House said.
It was definitely a pretty big factor over why I went here over the other schools I was considering,” Hubbard said.