Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Students Rally for the Lottery Tuition Program

By Thomas Stearns 

In January, Ann Welty, student activities director here at Trident Tech, took a group of our students to join with reps from the other fifteen technical colleges of South Carolina to a rally on the state capitol steps in a show of support for the Lottery Tuition Assistance program. There was a microphone, passionate speakers and about 300 people letting our lawmakers know that allocating Education Lottery money to the Lottery Tuition Assistance program is working (LTA).

Photo from LTA Rally
The LTA has awarded scholarships to 330,000 students in the ten years it has been in operation, including students who would never have been able to afford a higher education. Paris Jonesis an example. She is a working single parent with sickle cell anemia who could never afford to advance her economic status without the LTA scholarship she receives to study pharmacy. And there are hundreds of cases like hers.  

However, every year, the Education Lottery Funds must be approved anew and there are no guarantees the funding will be there. Dr. Darrel Staat, President of the South Carolina Technical College System, annually launches an armada of buses from all sixteen Technical Colleges to show their appreciation of the  LTA. It seems to work.

Photo from LTA Rally
The LTA has received funding for all ten years. And they have averaged 47 million dollars per year for the last five. And so the students amassed below the Capitol steps and listened as four speakers pled their case. 

Dr. Staat was first. He foresees a brighter and more educated South Carolina with the help of LTA funding.  He said, “We see signs of rebounding from the recent recession; however, there are still thousands of South Carolinians un-employed and looking for work. Lottery Tuition Assistance is more important than ever.” Then Senator John Courson, Chair, Senate Education Committee, now President Pro Tempore of the Senate, bolstered the cause when he spoke of the many states that model their technical college system after ours. Representative Phil Owens, chair, Education and Public Works Committee added, “The South Carolina Department of Workforce states that 45% of the jobs in South Carolina require a certificate or AA degree.  But only 29% of the workforce is prepared.” He wants to bridge that gap between people and jobs. The SC Technical College System provides 76 associate degrees, 27 diplomas, and nearly 1100 certificates. 

Photo from LTA Rally
Raymond Hudson was the last to speak.  Hudson is a 57-year-old student at Central Carolina Technical College who was laid off from his job as a production manager after 23 years of service. He is returning to school to acquire a new trade as the opportunities in his field have waned.  He summed up the driving argument for continued funding when he said, “A well educated work force is a draw to businesses requiring trained professionals to fill their needs.  The major provider for too many families is either out of work or hard pressed to provide a sustainable income. Education is the key to success and the money spent by the state will be returned by the elevated productivity of the workforce and the businesses they attract.” 

The gathering was three hundred concerned students wanting to be a part of the process that will help provide an education for one in three students attending Technical Colleges throughout South Carolina. 


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