Gov. Deal Looks to Increase HOPE Scholarship, Some Say Not Enough

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    At the start of the 2013 legislative session Monday, Gov. Nathan Deal says he plans to push an increase in funding for the HOPE scholarship program.

    In 2011, Gov. Deal signed a bill that reduced the HOPE from full coverage to 90 percent of tuition rates for high school students who had a 3.0 GPA. The bill also eliminated money for books and fees.

    Officials said the reduction in funding for HOPE scholars due to declining lottery sales, which has decreased by more than $71 million in the past two years.

    According to the governor’s office, the Georgia Lottery Corporation transferred more than $901 million to the State Treasury’s Lottery for Education Account during the 2012 fiscal year. THAT was an increase of more than $55 million from the 2011 figure. So far, for the first quarter of the 2013 fiscal year, the Georgia Lottery Corp. has transferred more than $221 million, up 8 percent from 2012.

    Some see the increases as still falling short of what’s necessary. In a press release directed to the governor, Bryan Long, the executive director of Better Georgia, a statewide advocacy group, said that Deal’s plan fails to keep up with increases in Georgia college’s tuition costs.

    “More than 10,700 Georgia residents have signed a petition asking Gov. Deal to save the HOPE Scholarship but his new budget falls far short of this goal,” said Long. “Gov. Deal has proposed a 3 percent increase in the HOPE Scholarship as college tuition rises 6 percent at Georgia Tech, 5 percent at UGA and 3.5 percent at Georgia State. Students attending Georgia’s technical colleges are paying 13 percent more in tuition. Gov. Deal broke the HOPE Scholarship. His current budget does nothing to fix it.”

    In 2012, Deal announced his Complete College Georgia initiative aimed at graduating an additional 250,000 college students by 2020. Gov. Deal says the HOPE scholarship is necessary to reach that goal.

    “The jobs of the future in Georgia will require some degree of higher education, and HOPE plays a huge role in assuring access for many Georgia families,” Gov. Deal said. “Equally important for the state, it’s a lure that keeps our best and brightest in Georgia because if they go to college in Georgia, they are likely to work and pay taxes here when they graduate.”

    The Georgia legislative session will start Monday and run for 40 legislative days.

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