Last month, hundreds of students from the South Carolina Technical College System gathered at the Statehouse to show their support for Lottery Tuition Assistance. Their message to legislators was clear: Lottery Tuition Assistance is making a difference.
Since the program was established in 2002, more than 175,000 students across the state have used LTA to get the skills and training they needed to get good jobs, prepare for better jobs or to give them an affordable option when looking to transfer to a four-year institution.
In short, LTA has helped thousands of South Carolinians pursue a better future.
Last year alone, approximately 40,000 students took advantage of the program -- almost 1,900 of them were from here in the York Technical College service area of York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
York Tech nursing student Christine Drutis went to Columbia because she wanted to make sure the General Assembly understood what Lottery Tuition Assistance has meant to her. Christine originally went to college more than 10 years ago to pursue her goal of becoming a nurse, but that dream was put on hold because of financial constraints. The dream was delayed even longer after Christine was married and became the mother of two beautiful children. But the dream of becoming a nurse never left her. Christine -- like thousands of others students -- says it was Lottery Tuition Assistance that gave her the boost she needed to go back to school in 2004. She will graduate with her nursing degree in May, an additional nursing professional in a field that desperately needs skilled personnel.
Not only is Lottery Tuition Assistance good for the students who receive the funds, it's also good for all of us who call South Carolina home. A recent study by the Council for Higher Education found that 85 percent of LTA recipients stayed in South Carolina after graduation, a greater portion than any other sector of the state's public higher education. Our technical colleges educate South Carolinians for South Carolina jobs to benefit South Carolina citizens.
Lottery Tuition Assistance is a unique program in several ways. Unlike other tuition assistance or scholarship programs, LTA is not income based. This is especially important for many of our working students who hold down jobs to support their families while working toward their degree. Without the kind of help LTA provides, the income of these students would actually work against them in many cases when applying for other kinds of financial assistance. These same kinds of work and family obligations also require a significant number of our students to pursue higher education part time. LTA is also the only lottery-funded aid available to part-time students.
LTA is also unique from other tuition assistance programs in the way it is funded. The award amount is not guaranteed from semester to semester, fluctuating based on lottery proceeds and student demand. Obviously, this uncertainty can create anxiety for those who depend on LTA to pursue their educational and career goals.
I would like to personally thank our General Assembly for its foresight in creating this valuable program that ensures access to higher education for all South Carolinians, and I urge lawmakers to continue their support. The 16 colleges of the South Carolina Technical College System are an integral part of the state's higher education system, educating more than half of all undergraduates in the state. The educational and training opportunities for businesses and individuals provided by these colleges are vital to South Carolina's economic and workforce development efforts. A strong and reliable Lottery Tuition Assistance program has become a key component of success in these efforts.