New HOPE Provisions Presented, Debated
Last week, Georgians got their first glimpse of the long-awaited proposal to preserve one of the nation’s most popular merit scholarship programs. At a press conference at Georgia State University on Tuesday, Governor Deal and legislative leaders released their bill aimed at preserving HOPE and its benefits for Georgia’s students.
The legislation, now known as HB326, creates two scholarship levels for students at Georgia’s public colleges and universities. The first, coined the Zell Miller Scholarship, will continue to cover full tuition for the highest achieving students like the current scholarship. The second, which will have the same eligibility criteria of the current scholarship, will cover a percentage of tuition, 90% for Fall 2011. Neither scholarship will include funding for mandatory fees or a book stipend.
To be eligible for the Zell Miller Scholarship, students will be required to earn a 3.7 GPA in high school and a 1200 on the SAT (or 26 on the ACT). Once in college, they will be required to keep a 3.5 GPA to continue receiving the award.
As the proposal stands, these changes will affect students immediately with the Fall 2011 term. Students who met the requirements for the Miller Scholarship upon high school graduation and have a 3.5 college GPA will be eligible for full tuition coverage while other HOPE scholars will receive the 90% award.
This lack of a “grandfather clause” was an area of concern for Georgia Tech Student Body President Corey Boone when he testified to the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee on Wednesday. He asked legislators to consider including a provision that would lessen the immediate cut to students currently in the system and continue to encourage the Georgia Lottery to pursue new revenue streams.
Boone’s comments, in addition to the remarks of other USG students, were well received by Chairman Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), who committed to look into concerns. The subcommittee later passed the legislation to the full Appropriations Committee, where it was given a “do pass” recommendation.
The bill now awaits action by the Rules Committee before it is debated on the House floor.
In a statement released by the USG, Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. thanked Governor Deal and legislative leaders for their work on the HOPE proposal. He noted that the proposed changes “have been designed with the aim of fulfilling the original educational intent of the program.”
“All have been asked to sacrifice some in order that HOPE endures for all.”
HB326 also contains changes that will affect students attending other higher education institutions in the state. Those attending private colleges and universities and receiving the HOPE tuition equalization grant will see a 10% award cut. Students attending a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia on the HOPE Grant will, for the first time, see a 3.0 GPA maintenance requirement to continue receiving funding.
The HOPE legislation appears to be on a fast track for House consideration. It will then go to the Senate for review and passage, likely next week.
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- Created By:George Ray
- Modified By:Fletcher Moore