Cuts to HOPE schol­ar­ship af­fects stu­dents

Faces $243 mil­lion short­fall

The Covington News - - Front page - By Sabas­tian Wee swee@cov­news.com

Stu­dents at Ge­or­gia Perime­ter Col­lege and other uni­ver­si­ties across Ge­or­gia are brac­ing for pos­si­ble cuts to the HOPE schol­ar­ship, though many are un­sure what those cuts will ac­tu­ally be.

The pop­u­lar pro­gram pro­vides col­lege tu­ition for stu­dents who earn a B av­er­age or bet­ter, but is fac­ing ma­jor fund­ing re­duc­tions. Lot­tery rev­enue hasn’t kept up with HOPE needs and the fund is go­ing into the red.

There are al­ready cuts tak­ing place in HOPE. The book al­lowance will be cut in half from $150 to $75 a se­mes­ter as of July 1 due to a “trig­ger” writ­ten into Ge­or­gia law for cuts to HOPE when spend­ing ex­ceeds the bud­get. With the ad­di­tion of de­clin­ing lot­tery tick­ets, the schol­ar­ship fund­ing faces a $243 mil­lion short­fall in fis­cal year 2011 and a $317 mil­lion short­fall in fis­cal year 2012.

Leg­is­la­tors have pro­posed rais­ing stu­dent GPA re­quire­ments or to re­vert back to some form of meanstest­ing so lower in­come stu­dents won’t lose their op­por­tu­nity to at­tend col­lege. Gov. Nathan Deal has come out against both of these pro­pos­als.

“What­ever guide­lines the State has placed, we will

fol­low,” said Robin Win­ston, di­rec­tor of stu­dent fi­nan­cial ser­vices for Ge­or­gia Perime­ter Col­lege.

“Right now, we don’t have a to­tal plan in place to re­place the funds, be­cause we just don’t know what is go­ing to hap­pen.”

Of the 535 stu­dents on HOPE at GPC’s Newton cam­pus, 279 stu­dents (who are also not el­i­gi­ble for Pell) will be af­fected by the bud­get cuts.

“Our stu­dents are eligi- ble for a va­ri­ety of aids,” Win­ston said. “HOPE is just one of these pro­grams.”

Most stu­dents who will be af­fected by the change are un­happy about the pos­si­bil­ity of cuts.

“I do be­lieve (HOPE) should be merit-based,” said Han­nah Lawrence, 21, who has at­tended Perime­ter for two years. “But the cuts for books are go­ing to hurt. Just one of my books cost me $200.”

“It’s re­ally not fair when we work so hard for our grades,” said Amanda Dixon, 18, a gen­eral stud­ies ma­jor. “All this is go­ing to do is cause us to get more loans and get into debt.”

“This is just ridicu­lous,” said Blake Meads, 19, a film ma­jor in his sec­ond se­mes­ter. “They’re cut­ting so much and it’s mak­ing it harder to get what we need for col­lege. It’s a travesty.”

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