Gov. Deal releases new plan for scholarship

Photo by Victor Lee
Former Governor Zell Miller’s promise was straightforward: make passable grades as a high school student and enjoy a free college education in the state of Ga. Soon, however, this promise could be broken, as lawmakers move to vote on the HOPE scholarship.
This year, the state withdrew from reserve accounts to fund the portions of the scholarship that were not covered by the lottery revenue.
State officials knew the deficit would arise eventually, but historically have only toyed with the idea to make eligibility requirements stricter by including additional GPA and standardized test requirements. Lawmakers had warned cuts were coming, but many students thought the changes would only affect future recipients.
On Tuesday, Gov. Deal proposed an overhaul that would save some $300 million.
“We have crafted a plan that preserves HOPE for future generations of Georgians while maintaining one of the most generous scholarship programs in the United States,” Deal said.
Under the new plan, free public college tuition would be available to high school students with a GPA of at least 3.7 and a minimum score of 1200 on the SAT — the majority of current recipients at Tech would meet those standards.
Other students would get some tuition help, an amount that could fluctuate annually. The revamped program, however, would no longer cover extras, like fees, books and remedial classes.
Students with at least a college GPA of 3.0 would qualify for an award that would pay 90 percent of public college tuition.
Those attending private colleges in Georgia would see their awards shrink from $4000 to $3600.
The proposed changes mean at least 200,000 students will see cuts to their HOPE awards, and most of the incoming freshmen this Fall will not get the full tuition older students under the old plan once received.
Student leaders asked lawmakers Wednesday to delay implementation by a semester or year so current recipients can alter their financial or academic plans to accommodate for the change.
The state House Higher Education Appropriations Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the proposed changes to HOPE. During the public hearing, students, lottery retailers and others shared their concerns.
“The main issue that the freshman class has is the issue of there being absolutely no grandfather clause,” said Freshman Class President and MGT major McKenzie Delaney.
“Today, I ask that you all consider a…period that would allow an orderly transition, one that would give students adequate time to get their financial house in order so that they can make an investment in their education,” said Undergraduate Student Body President Corey Boone.
Republican legislative leaders and some minority Democrats are backing the plan and moving quickly to pass it.
House Democratic Minority Leader Stacey Abrams says that in the final version of the legislation, House Democrats want to see remedial courses for technical colleges and tuition equalization grants for, for-profit schools.
She also says that the Democrats hope to preserve the Pre-K portion of the lottery funds.
State Representative Ed Ryders (R-Albany) plans to introduce an amendment that would allow voters to decide if state college tuition should be capped by inflation, unless the State Legislature says otherwise. The amendment already has more than 100 signatures from fellow House members.


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