I attended the General Assembly committee hearing this summer on revamping HOPE, which is running out of money despite what some posters here insist. With rising tuition and improved college attendance, the Georgia Lottery — which funds both HOPE and pre-k — cannot keep up with demand.
Many bad ideas were floated at the hearing. One was reducing the amount of HOPE to cover 75 or 80 percent of the tuition tab. My argument against that measure is that HOPE succeeded because it was so straightfoward — attain a B average in high school, maintain a B average in college and the taxpayers of Georgia will pay your full tuition at a public college.
Start diluting that brilliant concept — thank you Zell Miller for the simplicity of the idea — and HOPE gets murky.
I would prefer that we raise the bar on keeping HOPE, no more losing it and regaining it. We eliminate the smaller HOPE funds that go to students attending private colleges in Georgia. (I know it would hurt; I had a child at Emory for a while, but I think parents who send their kids to private college expect to live on rice and beans.)
We ought to get rid of all second chances and preserve the simplicity of the merit scholarship: To keep HOPE in college, keep your B average. Only 46.2 percent of students who had HOPE when they began University System colleges still retain it at the 30 credit-hour checkpoint; one year for most students. At 90 credit hours, or about three years, only 37.4 percent are still eligible.
I heard an interview with state Rep. Len Walker, R-Loganville, this week where he reiterated that HOPE may only be able to cover a portion of tuition in the future. I hope that proposal does not prevail. What do you think?
I think my 11-year-old twins will see a greatly reduced HOPE, and I better redouble my efforts to save for their college educations. You may see me waiting tables at IHOP on weekends. That’s how I got through college and grad school. And it’s where I developed my deep affection for silver dollar pancakes.
–By Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog