Hope for the HOPE Scholarship

As the Georgia General Assembly winds down, a major issue is heating up at the state capitol. The House and the Senate have both passed their own versions of reforms, but have not found a middle ground.

A few changes have been agreed upon. Both the House and the Senate have agreed that there won't be a minimum SAT score considered for applicants, and the standard for a numerical grade of 80 will now be equivalent to 3.0, but plenty of other issues are still at stake.

College administrators statewide credit the HOPE Scholarship for brightening the futures of needy students in Georgia.

"Our enrollment across the state really went up after the HOPE was implemented, so it's been a wonderful opportunity for those that otherwise would not have that."

But HOPE may be dimming for the scholarship itself. Budget projections show the program costs exceed lottery receipts by 2010 and disagreements continue between the Georgia House and Senate on how much to cut the scholarship.

Southwest Georgia Technical College administrators say there may be $860,000 in the governor's budget for an expansion to their campus, but they fear if the HOPE Scholarship is cut, they won't attract enough students to fill that extra space.

"If we don't have enough students to fill the programs, then we might have to do away with some of the programs, and that would naturally affect our ability to hire instructors," Betty Keel says.

One thing the House and Senate have agreed upon is creating a set grading standard throughout Georgia high schools.

"That would mean the B would carry a 3.0 average just like in college and I think that would equalize the students qualifying for the HOPE Scholarship," says Freida Hill.

Administrators say they are placing the students’ futures in the hands of the General Assembly, and until every is finalized, they won't give up hope.

Friday is the last day in the regular 40-day session. The General Assembly is in recess until Wednesday.

A main concern lawmakers have is about how much to cut the books and fees allowances. The House wants more disadvantaged students to get an annual $300 book and fee allowance even if other students have to pay, but the Senate says all students should have to pay.