Students receiving HOPE will be feeling the ripple effect of plunging lottery sales, as mounts on in the near future.
Georgia’s HOPE scholarship funding faces a $243 million dollar shortfall in fiscal year 2011 and a $317 million shortfall in 2012 due to declining lottery ticket sales. With these budget problems in mind, the first of what is expected to be many cuts to HOPE has come in the form of a reduction to the book allowance.
The book allowance will be cut in half from $150 to $75 a semester as of July 1st due to a “trigger” written into Georgia law for cuts to HOPE when spending exceeds the budget.
In a memo regarding HOPE program changes, President of the Georgia Student Finance Commission Timothy A. Connell, pointed out a “strong likelihood that the Georgia General Assembly will pass new legislation enacting larger and more significant changes.”
Further explaining, he wrote, “You could see the elimination of all book and fee allowances plus some reduction in the tuition benefit.” In other words, it is likely HOPE will be cut significantly and students will take a hit to their finances.
Several remedies are being considered to address Hope’s budget woes:
· Several public officials have suggested raising the minimum GPA required to qualify for HOPE from a 3.0 to anywhere from a 3.1 to a 3.5. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Governor Nathan Deal has come out against this solution and many students seem to be terrified of the possibility.
· Until 1995, qualification for a HOPE scholarship was means-tested. Only students with families earning a combined income of below $100,000 were eligible. Some have suggested bringing back some form of means-testing so lower income students won’t lose their opportunity to attend college. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that Deal has also come out against this solution.
· In a recent New York Times article on the HOPE cuts, some students suggested raising taxes to pay for the budget shortfall. The scholarship is currently financed exclusively by lottery revenues but they have fallen so much that they no longer cover the budget. No public officials have come out in favor of this.
· Given Deal’s opposition to other methods, the most likely solution is to make Hope a partial scholarship, covering only 80-90% of tuition.