Deal unveils plan to save HOPE scholarship

ATLANTA (WTOC) – Gov. Nathan Deal introduced legislation on Tuesday that aims to preserve the HOPE scholarship and Pre-K programs.

Deal's measure creates the Zell Miller Scholarship program, which maintain full tuition coverage for Georgia's highest-achieving students.

Zell Miller Scholars will include the top 10 percent of HOPE scholars under the present system based on both a 3.7 GPA and a 1200 SAT or 26 ACT score, according to the new legislation. These scholars attending a Georgia public college or university would be awarded full tuition scholarships. Those attending private institutions would receive the full private HOPE award.

Beginning this fall, students with a 3.0 GPA attending Georgia public colleges and universities will receive 90 percent of the Fiscal Year 2011 standard tuition rate.

The legislation would also eliminate funds for books and fees, eliminate funding for remedial classes, cap eligible hours at 127 and ensure that HOPE scholars are prepared for college-level work by requiring them to take a certain number of high school rigorous courses, according to a news release.

Deal said in a statement that Pre-K will continue to receive one-third of all lottery-funded expenditures and will remain a voluntary, universal, free program serving 4-year-olds across the state. The pre-K changes would require the state to move to a four-hour day.

A news release from the governor's office outlined other changes under the new legislation:

Pre-K

Georgia remains one of only four states to provide a universal Pre-K program

Adds 5,000 slots to address the Pre-K waiting list in the state. Currently there are around 9,000 on the waiting list in Georgia.

Increase of transportation funds

Increases extended day funds by 4.5 million, tripling the amount currently paid for these slots for at-risk students

HOPE Grant

Requires students to earn a 3.0 GPA by the first HOPE check point, once enrolled in technical college courses

Provides that students who already possess a postsecondary degree are ineligible to receive the HOPE Grant

Establishes a firm cap of 95 quarter hours or 63 semester hours for all students.

The Georgia Lottery Corporation

- Limits bonuses awarded to Georgia Lottery Corporation employees to no more than 25 percent of their base compensation and conditions bonuses on an increase in net proceeds from the prior year transferred to the Lottery for Education Account.

Lowers the commission paid to lottery retailers from an average of 7 percent to not more than 5 percent on gross sales.

Need-Based Aid

HOPE Scholarship funds will be paid in full without taking Pell eligibility into account.  Pell-eligible students will then be able to use these federal funds to cover the costs of college-going expenses beyond tuition costs.

$20M will be appropriated to the one percent loan program and Georgia Student Finance Commission will work to raise private matching funds for $10M of this investment.  These student loans can also be forgiven altogether if loan recipients become certified and teach in a public K-12 school in the STEM field.  Each year of service in the classroom will forgive one year of the student loan. 

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