[UPDATE] 3-15 12:10pm -- ATLANTA (AP) --
Just three weeks after unveiling legislation to overhaul the state's cash-strapped HOPE scholarship, Gov. Nathan Deal has signed the measure into law.
Deal signed the bill Tuesday morning at the state Capitol.
The new Republican governor made fixing the landmark scholarship
a centerpiece of his legislative agenda this session. The program
had been set to go broke as lottery proceeds failed to keep pace
with rising tuition and soaring college enrollment.
The new law will slash scholarships to 90 percent for all but
the highest scoring students, though that figure doesn't account
for expected tuition increases. Students who earn a 3.7 GPA and a
1200 on the SAT would still get a full scholarship.
Deal faced a heckler Tuesday who said the changes hurt students
who don't earn top grades.
On Tuesday, Deal unveiled sweeping changes to HOPE, including having at least a 3.7 GPA and 1200 on the SAT to qualify for a full ride to college.
Another change includes eliminating money for books and other university fees.
If passed, many of the changes would go into effect this fall.
"If they take away HOPE or if they raise the GPA then that means I would have to take out more loans, which is money that I have to pay back," said Kimeshia McKenzie, a freshman at VSU. "And I already don't have the funds for that."
Deal is concerned that HOPE would run out of money by 2013, if changes aren't made to the program.
The bill moves to the full House next week for consideration.