HOPE saved, but reduced, by legislature
The bill to reform the HOPE Scholarship, which will reduce the reimbursement to all but the highest-achieving students, has now passed both the House and the Senate.
Gov. Nathan Deal has said he intends to sign the bill next week. Leaders said the bill was necessary due to
declining revenues so the scholarships could be preserve the program for future generations.
The HOPE program is funded by revenues from the Georgia Lottery.
The legislation reduces the tuition funding supplied to HOPE recipients to 90 percent of the current year’s tuition level. Though that means many families will be paying more out of pocket for college, they also will have access to very low interest loans through a newly-created state program that is also part of the bill.
Meanwhile, students who are able to achieve and maintain a 3.7 grade point average, along with an SAT score of 1,200 or a 26 on the ACT, will have their full tuition bill covered by HOPE.
State officials argued that the program faced bankruptcy in 2013, but with changes to HOPE and the lottery-funded Pre-K system, their funding will be tied to lottery revenues.
“For over 18 years HOPE has enabled students to attend schools at home and letting the program diminish was not an option here,” Gov. Deal said. “The General Assembly and I have developed a plan that aims to continue to keep Georgia’s brightest students on our own turf with hopes that they will thrive here after finishing their education and provide more prosperity for our state in the coming years.”
The governor’s office also released the following comparison of Georgia’s HOPE program to similar ones in nearby states:
“Most comparable to the Peach State’s model would arguably be that of Florida. Under the new plan for HOPE, students with a GPA of 3.7 and a SAT score of 1200 or 26 ACT will be considered Zell Miller Scholars and will receive full tuition. In Florida students are required to have a 3.5 GPA but must have a 1270 SAT or a 28 ACT. Furthermore, Georgia students with a 3.0 GPA will now have 90 percent of tuition covered yet Florida’s students with the 3.0 GPA will only have 75 percent covered. A certain amount of community service hours is also tacked on to the requirement for both of the scholarship levels in Florida.
“In South Carolina, students with a 3.5 GPA and a 1200 SAT or 27 ACT receive up to $6,700 their first year. Students meeting a 3.0 GPA and 1100 SAT or 24 ACT receive up to $4,700 per year and students with a 3.0 GPA receive up to $2,800. South Carolina has also seen higher tuition increases than Georgia, according to the Southern Regional Education Board.
“In Tennessee, students with a 3.0 or a 21 ACT get up to $4,000 a year, and the Volunteer State has higher tuition rates than Georgia.
“New Mexico is the only state that covers full tuition, but students do not receive their tuition benefits until the beginning of their second semester. Students are judged on their first semester college performance, which they must pay for in full out of their own pockets. Georgians have eschewed this model because the large upfront cost would prevent many of our best and brightest students from starting college.”