Since 1993, the Georgia Lottery has provided a solution to keep higher education tuition affordable in our state, as well as fund Georgia's pre-K program.
The HOPE scholarship and grant program, funded by the Georgia Lottery, is unlike any other in the nation and awards deserving students with the financial assistance necessary to attain a degree, diploma or certificate at a very low cost-and in certain cases, at no cost.
More than 1.5 million Georgia students have reached their higher education goals at Georgia colleges, universities and technical schools thanks to $6.4 billion in HOPE scholarships and grants.
In FY 2014, Georgia had the fifth largest gross total sales of all of the lottery programs throughout the United States.
Although the Georgia lottery ranked fifth in total gross sales in FY 2014, we also transferred the second smallest percentage of sales back to the state.
At 23.5 percent, our state was only ranked above Massachusetts, which transferred 20 percent of their total sales back to the state treasury. The other eight lottery systems in the United States-New York, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois and Ohio-all transferred between 3.4 and 10.89 percentage points more over the Georgia Lottery back to their respective states.
Georgia's population grew 1.03 percent, according to U.S. Census estimates, between FY 2013 and FY 2014.
This means Georgia Lottery revenues (and in turn, the HOPE program) should also be growing, right?
Unfortunately, this isn't the case.
The Georgia Lottery is not increasing the amount of money transferred to education at the same rate as other states with similar population growth.
For example, California increased lottery transfers by 5.12 percent with only .97 percent population growth.
North Carolina increased lottery transfers by 4.7 percent with only .97 percent of population growth as well.
Georgia, however, only increased lottery transfers by 1.9% percent in FY 2014.
This means we are seeing only "nominal growth," or growth in name only.
While the number has increased, it is not enough to make any sort of positive impact on the overall HOPE scholarship and grant awards.
Georgia's small increase in lottery transfers even falls short of states that are not currently experiencing population growth.
Pennsylvania, who saw no population growth, increased FY 2014 lottery transfers by 4.18 percent.
Ohio's population grew by only .19 percent, yet the state's lottery transfers increased by 12.6 percent over FY 2013.
This asks a troubling question-what are other states doing to improve lottery revenues and increase money for higher education that Georgia is not? Are our overhead lottery expenses higher? Are we failing to explore new avenues for growth?
The cost of tuition at colleges, universities and technical schools across the nation continues to skyrocket and HOPE scholarship and grant program provides Georgia students with the means to make tuition affordable.
Businesses who are looking to relocate to or expand operations in Georgia often cite our ready workforce as one of the most critical deciding factors-and HOPE plays an important role in reinforcing our state's strong, educated workforce.
We need to ensure funding this program remains a top priority for our state-and that means we need to be open to exploring new strategies and solutions for increasing lottery revenues.
Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.