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HOPE awards slashed

On March 15, Gov. Nathan Deal signed the HOPE Bill into law, slashing how much money students will be awarded for the next school year.

The cut in funding for HOPE was due to both the state budget and a lack of revenue to cover the demands of HOPE recipients and other lottery funded programs.

“The state faced an $800 million deficit in the general budget and a $300 million shortfall in lottery-funded programs: the HOPE scholarship and Georgia pre-k,” Deal said.

“For the first time in 2010, Georgia was forced to dip into reserves to cover benefits,” Deal said in a guest column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We are now raiding those same reserves at an alarming rate. With tuition hikes and increased expenditures in all lottery-funded programs, Georgia’s nationally acclaimed HOPE program would have been bankrupt by July 2012.”

In order to prevent that bankruptcy, Deal presented Georgia with his plan for HOPE. That plan was amended in House Bill 365, passed in the House and then the Senate before it was finally signed into law on March 15.

Like the old standards for HOPE, a student has to maintain a 3.0 to receive any sort of scholarship from the program, but the new law now offers two types of scholarships. The HOPE scholarship will pay for 90 percent of tuition if a student has and maintains a 3.0 in college.

The HOPE Award Rate is now determined using the previous academic year’s HOPE tuition payment. For 2011-2012, it will be the 2010-2011 HOPE tuition payment of $2298, Doug Tanner, director of Financial Aid, said.

With that rate, HOPE will pay $2068 of each VSU students’ tuition.

The second scholarship is the Zell Miller Scholarship, named after the former governor who founded the HOPE program.

According to the new law, the Zell Miller Scholarship will pay the difference between the HOPE Scholarship and the full tuition charged for a semester, Tanner said.

“The new law does indicate that students who entered college from July 2007 until June 2011, and who graduated from high school with a 3.7 GPA and scored 1200 on the SAT or have an ACT Composite score of 26 are eligible for the Zell Miller Scholarship as long as they have maintained a 3.3 GPA in college,” he said.

Tanner said that regulations have not been decided on how current students will be determined as eligible for these awards.

The Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC) will be responsible for handling that process.

“I believe that there will be an application process for current students and would likely require students to provide documentation of their SAT or ACT scores to GSFC,” he said.

About 1600 of the 3800 VSU students receiving the HOPE Scholarship and have a 3.3 GPA, but those 1600 will only be available for the Zell Miller Scholarship if they met the initial requirements as freshmen.

“Students that don’t meet the requirements as freshmen cannot gain the Zell Miller Scholarship based on their college GPA alone,” he said.

Tuition for the summer 2011 semester will not be affected, but tuition for fall 2011 will be affected by this change in law, Tanner said.

There will be a change in the HOPE book allowance for summer 2011, though.

“Because expenditures for lottery funded programs exceeded revenue in 2010, the existing law requires that the HOPE Book Allowance for students not eligible for a Pell Grant will be reduced to $75 for half time or more enrollment and $37 for less than half time enrollment,” Tanner said.

For future years, the HOPE tuition payment will be determined by revenue from the Georgia Lottery.

“If more funds are available the HOPE Scholarship could cover a higher percentage of tuition, but never more than the amount for tuition charged to a student,” Tanner said.

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