Less than 48 hours after the New York Lottery said it would cut its college scholarship program for high school seniors amid budget concerns, the agency has changed its mind, according to the New York Daily News.
"The program is going to continue," lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Hapeman said. "We're going to award scholarships for the 2009-10 academic year in the fall. It's an important program."
One student from every high school in New York has been eligible for a $5,000 grant under the program, which has helped more than 1,100 students each year for nearly a decade.
On Thursday, the lottery announced it needed to chop the longstanding program in order to meet Gov. David Paterson’s requirement that state agencies cut their budgets by 10 percent. The public announcement came hours after the Daily News reported its intention to chop the program.
The New York Lottery earned $7.5 billion last year; the Leaders of Tomorrow scholarship program cost only $1.4 million. The agency had said it didn’t want to cut its $81.7 million advertising budget because it earned $5 on every dollar spent, so the scholarship program had to go. That decision raised a few eyebrows.
The lotto’s investment in education has defended its existence when challenged by some state authorities or taxpayers. In 2008, the group doled out 34 percent of its revenue -- $2.56 billion – to education and 53 percent -- $3.97 billion – in prizes.
It’s not exactly clear why the lotto backpedaled on its decision, but bad press may have had something to do with it.
The same spokeswoman who two days ago definitively said the lotto hoped to restore the program in 2010 said Friday the agency was only considering the cut and had decided to keep the program in place. And as for the timing of the News report with the abrupt change in heart, Hapeman said, “Coincidences are what they are.”