The political debate over HOPE and the changes made to the popular scholarship program by the GOP-controlled General Assembly continues. DeKalb Senate Democrat Jason Carter says that it is still possible to exempt current HOPE recipients from the cuts pushed through by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Here is Carter’s statement, which is in response to the Regents vote today to raise tuition:
The Board of Regents voted today to increase both tuition and fees for the upcoming 2011-2012 school year. With the recent changes to the HOPE Scholarship, that means that HOPE-eligible students and families will immediately be forced to shoulder roughly 13% of their tuition bill, plus the full cost of books and an additional $100-$350 in fees per semester.
“I am glad that the tuition increase was the smallest we have seen in awhile, but I am still convinced that the changes to HOPE will hurt the students who need HOPE most and result in fewer students who can afford to stay in school,” said Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur). “The relatively small increase in tuition still yields a dramatic cut in the HOPE Scholarship and an increase in fees at a time when students and their families can least afford it.”
During the Legislature’s HOPE debate, Senate Democrats advanced an alternative proposal for HOPE reform to maximize the number of students who receive full tuition HOPE scholarships. That plan would have called for an income cap for the HOPE Scholarship.
“Given the 3% increase in tuition, our plan would have been an even better option because it would have covered even more than the 94% of Georgia families originally reported,” said Carter.
Additionally, Sen. Carter introduced an amendment to “grandfather” in current HOPE recipients and high school seniors who have had no time to plan for the cuts. It would have allowed them to receive full tuition coverage for at least a one year “grace period,” and possibly for the remainder of their time in college. This amendment would have been fully funded by excess reserve revenue in the Lottery for Education account – money that has been collected over and above the necessary reserve and is not currently allocated for use.
That amendment was defeated by a party-line vote in the Senate.
“With the 3% increase in tuition for next year, it is now even easier to grandfather in current HOPE Scholars,” Carter said. “We owe it to our current students who have come into college with the promise of HOPE to keep our promise as best as we can, and to do everything we can to see them graduate.”
The “grandfathering” or “grace period” proposal could be enacted by the Governor and Student Finance Commission without additional legislative action.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog