Democrats want to restore HOPE scholarship cuts

8:02 PM, Feb 6, 2013   |    comments
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  • Georgia Lottery sales
  • Georgia State University students
  • Georgia State Senator Cecil Staton (R-Macon)
  • Georgia State Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah)
  • Georgia State Senate Democratic Caucus

ATLANTA - Democratic state lawmakers want to restore some of the cuts made to Georgia's popular HOPE Scholarship program two years ago, but Republicans, who control the legislature, say we can't afford it just yet.

"It's one thing to tell our best and brightest to do all you can and we will take care of you when you get to college and then we don't fulfill our obligation," said State Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah).

On Wednesday, he and other members of the State Senate Democratic Caucus blasted Republican leaders for making college tougher for thousands of Georgia students.

For cutting most HOPE Scholarship tuition payments to 90% or less with no more book and fee reimbursements.

For contributing to a 20% drop in technical college enrollment by raising the academic standard for HOPE grants.

Faced with flat lottery sales and soaring enrollment, Governor Nathan Deal and the General Assembly made those and other HOPE cuts in 2011 to save the program.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats presented a package of bills and resolutions that would restore 100% of HOPE scholarship tuition, make the top 3% of all high school seniors eligible for full HOPE benefits under the Zell Miller Scholarship, and lower the HOPE Grant standard for technical college students from a 3.0 GPA to the previous 2.0.

Republican leaders praised the ideas, but said lottery sales have not recovered enough to pay for them.

"I hope we can get to some of those things in the future, but right now I applaud Governor Deal for doing the 3%; it's what our budget and our current financial resources will allow and it's a good first step," said State Senator Cecil Staton (R-Macon).

Staton was referring to the governor's January promise to restore 3% of HOPE Scholarship tuition payments and return to a fully funded Pre-Kindergarten program.

But that's as far are Republicans are willing to go at this point.

Senate Democrats admit GOP leaders are not receptive to their new HOPE proposals, but they're hoping Georgians of both political parties will bring pressure to restore more of the program.

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