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The end of HOPE could be near

Students who currently enjoy the benefits of low-cost to free tuition thanks to the HOPE Scholarship could very well be turning their pockets inside out for extra money.
The HOPE Scholarship may be out of funding by the year 2013, according to the Georgia Student Finance Commission. The loss of the HOPE Scholarship would be due to the fact that the state of Georgia is losing more and more money because of the current weak economy.
“I enjoy the benefits of HOPE and I’d be really angry to lose it,” Danielle Lee, senior business major, said.
The effects, to some students, are comparable to the loss of a limb. HOPE funding not only provides students with tuition and books, it also helps cover student living expenses.
Some students feel the harder working students should be the recipients of the scholarship meeting.
“It’s definitely not cool,” Lance McCarty, senior Computer Information Systems major, said. “True, there are a lot of incoming students, but some of them are wasting the money, and there’s not really an adequate buffer for the money supply.”
However, even without the tuition and book costs HOPE covers, students should not have to worry about increased student fees. According to the Office of Financial Aid, VSU’s costs and tuition are largely based on state tax revenue.
“If state tax revenue continues to increase as the recession ends and additional budget cuts are not required, there would be less pressure on the University System of Georgia and individual schools to increase tuition and fees,” Director of Financial Aid Douglas Tanner said. “It really depends on future state tax revenue levels.”
That may be all well and good, but what about budget cuts to make up for the loss of HOPE dollars that VSU receives through student tuition? VSU, along with many other universities­_­ across the state, have already suffered numerous slashes to their fiscal outlines. Without HOPE, can they take anymore?
Tanner believes they can.
“Tax revenue in recent months has increased, which is a sign that future budget cuts may not be necessary or would hopefully at least be smaller,” he said.
Still, even with the increase of tax revenue, it looks like students will have to rely more and more on either loans or paying out of pocket, which is really something some students can’t afford. Even with the slow rebound of our economy, it probably will take a long time before colleges can even get on stable financial footing with aid from the government.
“The HOPE Scholarship has provided financial opportunities for scores of Georgians,” VSU President Dr. Patrick Schloss said. “It has been a model for the nation and demonstrated the support of our citizens for the intellectual and academic achievement of young people.  VSU shares this commitment and is diligent in obtaining additional student aide.”
Even with VSU’s commitment to helping students, the government will lend a helping hand.
“There is a new need-based grant program being developed for Georgia which includes a community service requirement,” Tanner said. “It is scheduled to begin in 2011.  Students would have to meet the income eligibility requirement first and also complete a community service component in order to gain eligibility for the program. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”
Even with all the financial buffers that may be in place, the fact of the matter is that some policies regarding HOPE are going to change in the coming years. The two most obvious options would be to either reduce what the scholarship covers or to raise the academic requirements.
“If it were my choice I would set a fixed payment and not link the amount to tuition and fees,” Tanner said.
The severity of losing HOPE can’t be downplayed.
“If the HOPE Scholarship did not exist, it very well could mean the difference between a student being able to going to the college or university of their choice anywhere in Georgia or having no option other than to live at home with their parents and attend a local school,” Tanner said.
VSU will do all it can to whether the storm of finances, but for the moment, the circumstances surrounding HOPE looks grim.
“We will continue to monitor the HOPE Scholarship program and encourage our legislators to protect its funding,” Dr. Schloss said. “Though critical decisions may be required to insure its solvency, I am confident that future generations will benefit from the HOPE scholarship.”

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