Colleges may benefit from lotteries

by Chris Vetter

Although they might not ever receive as much money from the lottery as Gopher 5 jackpot winners do, students at universities around the state might benefit from the gambling system in the near future.
The Senate Higher Education Committee approved a constitutional amendment proposal on Tuesday that would commit a portion of the profits of state-operated lotteries to all universities in the state. The proposed amendment requires that a minimum of 20 percent of any state lottery revenue goes toward higher education, so the amount of money collected is dependent on the amount of money spent on state lotteries.
The proposal passed after Sen. Deanna Wiener, DFL-Eagan, offered an amendment to the proposal to include all public and private higher education institutions. The original proposal called for the revenue to only be used for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.
The money would be used to provide financial aid for Minnesota students from low-income families who attend schools in the state.
Mike Lopez, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs for MnSCU, called the passage of the amendment proposal a victory, despite the fact that the amended proposal means his system would not receive as much money. He said low-income students need this additional funding, regardless of where they go to school.
“We have a large number of dependent students,” Lopez said. “They are not getting sufficient grant funding.”
Sen. Steve Morse, DFL-Dakota, who is sponsoring the amendment, told the committee that more students from low-income families will stay in school longer if they receive financial aid to help pay for the first two years of higher education.
Despite the committee’s decision to include all public and private institutions, Morse said MnSCU needs the funding more than the University or private college students because it has more students from low-income families.
Marvin Marshak, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said that he had not heard about the amendment proposal until Tuesday, but said he was glad to receive the funding.
“Anytime anyone wants to help University students it’s good news,” Marshak said.
Each student recipient could receive a maximum of $1,000 under the amendment.
The amendment proposal must still pass the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Rules Committee before it is heard before the entire Senate. The bill must also take the same path through the state House, where it will have its first hearing today. The bill is sponsored there by Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth.
If the amendment makes it through both houses, it would appear on the 1998 general election ballot. For a constitutional amendment to pass, a majority of voters must approve the amendment. Voters who don’t mark “yes” or “no” on the ballot will be counted as “no” votes. If ratified, the amendment would go into effect July 1, 1999.