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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Deal's proposed HOPE overhaul includes cuts to awards, no funding for books or fees

Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to unveil his suggestions this morning to prevent the popular scholarship and pre-K funding program from going broke. Until then, he offered the Associated Press these details:

Deal said he would cut soaring costs by reducing HOPE awards, capping bonuses to lottery employees and trimming the amount retailers receive for selling tickets. He wants to make pre-K a half-day program, but also increase the number of slots by 5,000.

Until then, discuss whatever you fancy.

UPDATE, 10:20 a.m.: WSB-TV's Lori Geary says it's cuts, cuts, cuts — plus a scholarship named after Zell Miller, the GOP's favorite Democrat and the governor who helped create HOPE:

UPDATE, 10:35 a.m.: The AJC's Laura Diamond reports that Deal estimates the changes would save $300 million. Also in the proposal:

>> Caps payout to 127 hours for HOPE scholarship and 63 semesters for the HOPE grant. Students will a post-secondary degree will be ineligible for the technical grant.

>> Requires high school students to take "rigorous" classes to qualify for HOPE. This will begin this fall with incoming high school freshmen.

Deal's also proposed a $10 million "loan program" for students who couldn't maintain a 3.0 GPA. The loan would be forgiven if students went on to teach math or science in Georgia public schools. Shortening the pre-K day from six-and-a-half hours to four should open up 5,000 more slots, Diamond reports. Lottery officials will also see their bonuses capped. More to come, we're sure.

UPDATE, 10:44 a.m.: The House Democrats gave their blessing to the reforms. Via a press release from House Democratic Caucus:

"We are happy to have found a bi-partisan solution to save the nation's most valuable higher education scholarship program," said House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams. "We will join with our Republican colleagues by supporting an initiative offered by Gov. Nathan Deal." [...]

"HOPE is one of Georgia's best initiatives for ensuring our success in educational attainment and economic development," said Rep. Calvin Smyre, chairman emeritus of the House Democratic Caucus. "However, we have come to a point where the expenditures of the program far exceed the revenue. In order to save this Democratic program for all, we must make some changes."

Democrats support the Governor's efforts to reform HOPE, but with careful attention to all aspects of the program, including remedial courses for technical colleges, grandfathering of proprietary schools, expansion of slots for pre-K and the creation of a 1 percent loan program.

"If we reduce HOPE funding, Georgians most in need should have the ability to have access funds with low interest rates," said Rep. Al Williams.

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