The state Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 496, which adds a need-based component to the HOPE Scholarship. The bill was approved in a 45 to 4 vote.
The bill now moves to the House for consideration. I have to admit passage surprised me as the concept seems to have little public support. I also thought the Senate would figure there were too many major issues this year to tackle something as controversial as awarding HOPE Scholarships, albeit smaller ones of $600 or $700, based on need rather than academic achievement. Even UGA President Michael Adams said that he didn’t endorse the idea because he felt it would reduce overall support for the HOPE program.
Here is the release from the Georgia state Senate:
SB 496, The HOPE College Opportunity Grant, passed the Senate today with an overwhelming majority. Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), the bill’s author, went to bat for need based students throughout Georgia by proposing the grant which will be based solely on need.
“This is a ‘stay in college grant’ that probably only amounts to a few hundred dollars, but will certainly help the neediest students in Georgia. These grants will aid students who require our help most as the economy continues to falter and tuition begins to rise,” said Hill. “By giving these students a needed hand, we are cementing a brighter future of our state’s education system and economy; what we put in today is indeed an investment in the future of our state.”
“During this economic downturn, we want to proactively look for ways to support our college students who struggle the most to afford their tuition. Education provides the foundation that is necessary to develop and maintain a 21st century workforce in Georgia. And we are committed to growing and expanding our workforce in Georgia so that we will lead in job growth and workforce readiness. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Hill has led on this issue and I want to thank him for his hard work and efforts to provide assistance to our neediest college students,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.
In order to be eligible for the HOPE College Opportunity Grant, students must also be eligible for a Pell Grant during any term they apply for the grant. They must be full-time students attending eligible public postsecondary institution and meet enrollment standards including maintaining satisfactory academic progress.
The bill also notes certain residency requirements for grant applicants. The student must be classified as legal Georgia residents under the institution’s in-state tuition policy. Any student who is a Georgia resident at the time of their high school graduation must have met the residency requirements for at least 12 months prior to the first day of classes for which the HOPE grant is awarded. For any non-Georgia resident, this term is extended to 24 months. Additionally, dependent children of military personnel stationed in Georgia, who graduate from a Georgia high school or home study program, will be deemed Georgia residents.
The HOPE College Opportunity Grant is available until the student has earned a baccalaureate degree or until the student has attempted 190 quarter hours or 127 semester hours. The grant may be applied to any portion of the student’s cost of attendance.
Hill noted that 30 million in lottery funds are available to be set aside for this beneficial scholarship fund. Funding for the grant is based on appropriations, as well as how a specifics student’s need might change over their higher education career.