HOPE Scholarship Program can be sustained with reform

Attending Tech and UGA, respectively, represents the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for us. Unfortunately, it appears that this dream may be deferred for thousands of Georgia’s college students if our State Legislature fails to act.

During the election season, we heard bluster from both sides of the aisle promising to finally make the HOPE Scholarship sustainable. As the ideas come forward, we have one adamant reminder—remember the original purpose of the HOPE scholarship.

HOPE exists to make a secondary education accessible to every qualified Georgian.  So it is surprising to us when we hear proposals to increase GPA requirements and to implement funding caps, as this would not effectively and permanently cure the HOPE Scholarship’s ailments.

The students of Tech and UGA have some thoughts on how the State can address this problem. We encourage our Governor and State Legislature to keep these points in mind.

First, the HOPE Scholarship currently funds remedial courses, a socialized Pre-K program, private college and university education and access to a technical school education.  It is incredibly difficult to justify that a student is qualified to receive a merit-based scholarship if he or she is not adequately prepared for college.

We also question whether funding private and for-profit education was the original intent of the HOPE Scholarship. Additionally, if college students must make concessions, the pre-K program and the Technical System must make equitable concessions as well.

Next, revenues from the HOPE Scholarship are solely based on the lottery system. Our lawmakers need to work with the Lottery Corporation to ensure that our State’s appropriations are in line with the national average or explore alternative means of revenue for the scholarship such as Sunday alcohol sales or video lottery terminals.

Finally, the HOPE Scholarship must always fund 100 percent of tuition costs. To meet the original intent of the merit scholarship, deserving students should not have to go into debt to cover the cost of tuition.

We are mindful of the fact that concessions must be made on both sides. Nevertheless, we, the college students, expect to be engaged in the process. Limiting the total amount awarded to an arbitrary cap disproportionately harms the State’s research universities that have higher tuition rates. Solving this issue will not be easy, but we did not send our lawmakers to the Capitol to make easy decisions. We sent them to make the right ones.

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