Lottery funds aid working students

From the The Brunswick News

Playing the Georgia Lottery in Glynn County provides more than a chance to become a millionaire. It's giving a someone a chance at a quality education.

That was the message Debbie Alford, president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Lottery Corp., delivered to community leaders at the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce quarterly membership luncheon Friday at Epworth by the Sea on St. Simons Island.

Glynn County and its youth have benefited greatly from the game of chance.

"Since our inception, we've returned almost $330 million to your community," Alford told chamber members.

The Georgia Lottery funds state education programs such as prekindergarten and Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally, commonly called HOPE, scholarships and grants.

Statewide, the lottery has returned more than $14 billion to state programs.

Alford took on the role as head of the state lottery in October 2012, inheriting financial problems resulting from the Great Recession.

Things are looking up, she said.

"Fortunately, revenues are improving and we've been able to come back and add some funding," Alford said, calling herself a "bulldog" for state education.

College of Coastal Georgia President Valerie Hepburn and Altama Technical College President Lorette Hoover agreed that lottery-funded education programs are the bread and butter of higher education.

"What HOPE has done for us as a state is to keep our best and brightest here," Hepburn said. "We have the most generous higher education program in the country."

Alford estimated that there are about 820 students at the college's five campuses this year receiving the HOPE scholarship.

Many students who attend the technical college are working parents and could not afford to pursue higher education without the HOPE grant.

"The majority of our students are non-traditional. They are working individuals raising their families," Hoover said.

With HOPE funds beginning to slowly recover from the hit incurred during the economic downturn, more students are taking advantage of opportunities, she said.

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Release Date: 3/16/2013
Source: The Brunswick News

By NIKKI WILEY