Get your PhD in Powerball. Some states are looking to provide free college tuition and Tennessee is betting on revenue from the lottery.

Chris Valerio of National Public Radio reports.

Let Us Pay Your College Tuition

Oregon and Tennessee want more college graduates. In that vein, each is considering very different ways to fund tuition. What are the odds of success and who ultimately benefits? We went to some economists and asked them.

Let’s start with Tennessee, which announced its proposal earlier this month. Tennessee is one of the in the nation. Its plan, the “,” proposes free tuition for two years of community college or technical school. The only requirements are grade and community service oriented. So how does Tennessee plan on paying for this $34 million dollar annual cost? Lottery ticket sales.

This is not necessarily a new idea. Lottery funds have always been important to state budgets. But it does raise questions for some economists. Kevin Rask, a professor of economics at Colorado College explains, “To completely fund a segment of your state higher education on lottery ticket sales, that is a really specific kind of tax.”

And his big question: Who is buying the lottery tickets? “You are getting this money from your public in one way or another,” says Rask. “What I’m not sure of is who is that tax is falling on.”

Since that, in many states, lottery ticket sales are higher than average in impoverished regions, Richard Wolff, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, says this is fundamentally unfair:

A lottery is a tax on middle and lower income people. So if you are going to use this you are basically saying that in Tennessee the cost of college will be subsidized by lower income people.