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Georgia's HOPE scholarship program sinking fast

2:40 PM, Jan 12, 2012   |    comments
Georgia State University Students
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ATLANTA -- Georgia's HOPE scholarships are in more trouble than ever before.

New numbers from the state project a bleak future for students counting on HOPE to go to college.

And the Governor's budget released Wednesday only holds the line through the next school year.

Right now, for every nine dollars that HOPE pays toward college tuition in Georgia, the student pays one dollar.

If the state is not able to do anything to increase the lottery revenues that fund HOPE, or if the state does nothing to deal with the non-stop rising tuitions and rising enrollments of HOPE-qualified students, then by the time today's ninth graders are in college there will be only enough HOPE money to pay something less than half of their tuition.

The projections are from the state agency that manages HOPE scholarships, the Georgia Student Finance Commission.

The GSFC reported to state lawmakers and to the Board of Regents this week that rising enrollments and rising tuitions are eating into HOPE so fast, the GSFC is having to dip into reserves to fund the program. And by the end of the 2013-2014 school year, those reserves will have been drawn down to the minimum amount that state law requires, so GSFC will not be able to spend any more of those reserves.

The safety net will, in effect, be gone.

By the 2015-2016 school year, the amount that students are paying, out of pocket, is projected to be more than half of tuition. The HOPE scholarship program will pay less than half of the tuition, and will be paying a smaller and smaller share every year after that.

State lawmakers last year passed a plan aimed at saving HOPE, and Tuesday night Governor Deal was telling them in his State of the State address that the plan does just that, "Preserves HOPE for future generations."

But now, the new numbers say otherwise.

On Wednesday, Governor Deal's office had no comment.

State lawmakers like Sen. Jason Carter (D-DeKalb County) are worried.

"A high school freshman, a high school sophomore, cannot count on the HOPE scholarship," Carter said. "To me, when you pay for less than half of the expense of going to college, that's not the HOPE scholarship that we've known, that's not preserving it for the future. So we're going to look very hard over the next few days to make sure as we analyze the numbers that we do what we can to ensure that those students get what they've earned with their good grades."

There are some tentative proposals to try to increase the lottery revenues that fund the HOPE scholarships, and some lawmakers are likely to try again to limit who is eligible to receive HOPE scholarships.

So far, no proposals are on the table for any fixes this year.

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Link:

Here is the report of the Georgia Student Finance Commission's projections of HOPE scholarship finances, as presented to the Georgia Board of Regents on January 10, 2012.  It is a .pdf file.  In particular, see Page 24.  Click Here.

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