ATHENS, Ga. -- They wanted to restart a conversation and grab the Governor's attention, and it appears they accomplished both goals. Better Georgia, a progressive group based in Athens, hired a banner-towing airplane to take a message to the people at UGA's home opener Saturday.
"Governor Deal broke HOPE, txt fixit to 30644," read the banner that flew before the game for about an hour. The text leads to more information and an option of signing a petition. The group said they were trying to reach the more than 100,000 fans gathered in Athens, as well as a few lawmakers.
"UGA president Michael Adams invited our lawmakers to sit with him in the skyboxes today," said Better Georgia's Bryan Long. "So we thought it would be a perfect chance for them to have a conversation."
Better Georgia says the Governor's changes last year will not save the scholarship from bankruptcy. The 2011 session's overhaul was aimed at saving the program as it teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. It attached the scholarship dollars to higher performance standards, and untied the award money from tuition costs. That means the funds now come from lottery revenues. Projections show that money won't be able to cover the full costs of rising student tuition.
In a statement from the stadium, the Governor's spokesman said they did the best they could to save the scholarship with the resources they have.
"This is paid for by a leftist organization that believes there's no end to other people's money," Brian Robinson said of the banner. "The Legislature saved HOPE from bankruptcy. The state uses the money available to aid students who worked the hardest and earned it."
Students and fans noticed the banner, and started talking about it.
"I didn't know what it was trying to say, and I thought to myself, 'Well, my HOPE isn't completely broken," said Zell Miller scholar Colin Henderson. He's part of the higher-performing group of students that still get a full scholarship. Those that are seeing their award dollars fall say they're hoping to graduate before they lose any more funding.
"I lost about 20% of what I was getting my first year of college," said HOPE recipient Tom "Doc Holliday" Bell. "I'm working two jobs now to keep up, but it's tough."
Better Georgia said they planned to keep the conversation going until the legislature convenes again in January.