Graduating Seniors Could Lose HOPE Money

Morgan Thomas

From February 2011:

Students across the state of Georgia are taking time this month to complete the application that will be their most redeeming asset throughout college. 

Or so they think.

With lawmakers and Nathan Deal making radical changes to HOPE, students may find that it is “redeeming” no more. 

HOPE, a well-known and widely popular scholarship program, has helped more than 1.4 million Georgia students attend college. However, it is expected to take quite the hit in the upcoming years – as are the students relying upon its generous funds.

Despite the $7.3 million that the Georgia Lottery has reaped over the past two years, its profits have failed to support the number of Georgia students currently using HOPE and others who are eligible for the scholarship.

Deals and Representatives of the House Higher Education Committee have discussed possible changes to be made to HOPE including raising the required GPA from 3.0 to 3.2 and reducing the amount of tuition that the popular scholarship will cover.

“I’d propose that freshmen [who qualify for HOPE] pay for half of their first-year tuition,” said Brian Ely, an advisor to state representatives Stacey Evans and Barbara Massey Reece. “If those students keep the required 3.0 GPA throughout the end of the year, the state should refund them and then pay for their full tuition for the remaining three years. It saves the state money, considering so many freshmen lose HOPE by the end of their first year.”

Ely’s proposal could save the state money and save HOPE without making any further cuts. Based on an August article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, only 46.2 percent of students who had HOPE when they began college retained it at the 30 credit hour checkpoint.

No formal proposals such as Ely’s have been made, however.

Beginning in July 2011, the annual book allowance (currently $300) for a single student will be cut in half and by 2013, mandatory fees will no longer be covered; representatives still say this is not enough.

Already, the state has tapped into a $1 billion reserve to cover costs that exceed the Georgia Lottery’s annual profits. Unfortunately, representatives are too worried about this dwindling money supply to pursue any honest efforts in saving HOPE.

Inevitably, the state will continue to diminish the amount of money HOPE offers students, cutting one thing or another in any area that it can. 

“All of this will certainly hurt many families that are barely meeting the needs of their student,” said Al Muhit. “But what are we to do if the state itself is losing money, besides having the students save money themselves? It definitely doesn’t sound swell for future students, especially with all the talk of the rising cost of education.”

Changes are being made in an effort to supposedly “salvage the program,” but if long term solutions – solutions that will bring money to the program without making cuts to the program – are not found, HOPE will eventually cease to exist.

“If Georgia offers less money for HOPE, then it’s going to lose a lot of its top students,” said Paige Holbrook. “People often chose to stay in state either because they don’t want to come out of college with debt, or because of their family’s financial situation. If students aren’t offered as much, they might as well attend an out of state school they like more.”