Concerns grow over HOPE scholarship changes - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Concerns grow over HOPE scholarship changes

Big changes are on the way for Georgia's HOPE scholarship.

Last month, Governor Nathan Deal signed the Enduring HOPE Bill. The new program will give scholarships equal to 90 percent of current tuition levels to those students who achieve a 3.0 GPA in high school and keep that GPA throughout college. Those students who enter college with a 3.7 GPA and a 1200 SAT score will receive 100 percent of tuition through the Zell Miller Scholarship program as long as they maintain a 3.3 GPA in college. Mandatory fees and books will not be covered for any student.

Not everyone is happy about the changes, including some lawmakers who are touring universities for feedback.

Lawmakers opposed to the changes say this year, every hope scholor will face a cut in the amount of tuition paid by HOPE. Some fear the changes will make it harder to attend college,  and even more difficult to graduate.

Hands flew up when asked how many Savannah State University students received a 1200 or higher on their SAT's, but it was a much lower number than those who raised their hands when asked if they are HOPE scholors.

Members of the Special Committee to Restore HOPE visited the campus Wednesday afternoon.

"I hope at the end of the day we received information on what our representatives are going to do and where can we move forward," George Seabrook said.

Seabrook is a graduate student and did not receive HOPE.

"Just because I did not receive it does not mean I should not care," Seabrook said.

He does not like changes he is learning about. "People who put money into HOPE, since it is lottery based, come from the poorest populations of our community. Once the income cap was raised, everyone is up for HOPE and now we are running out of money. To me that is the overall problem," Seabrook told WTOC.

"What we are doing is wrong. We need to make changes so Georgia will prosper," Senator Lester Jackson of Savannah told WTOC.

Jackson along with Senator Jason Carter, Decatur, and others have toured almost every university in Georgia to inform and prepare students for HOPE scholarship changes.

"It has been changed from a scholarship intended to be a statewide program to make sure we maiximize the number of college graduates and number who could attend college and it has been changed to a program to send a small number of kids to the top two flagship institutions," Carter said. "That's not good enough for our state and we can do better."

The feedback on the changes, so far, has not been overly positive.

"So far we are hearing frustration with the process that got us to this point. We know we can do better," Carter said.

"We have been getting a lot of negative feedback about the HOPE, from the hopes of their children and hopes of their families," Jackson said.

"We need to restucture it," Seabrook said.

The spceial committee has come up with a proposal to restore the scholarship to 94 percent of the families who benefit from it. They are also asking Governor Deal to grandfather in current students and give them a grace period before they are impacted by any changes.

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