The Senate Democrats offered this response to the governor’s plan to lower the GPA for HOPE grants for students in technical colleges, which have reported a steep decline since Nathan Deal imposed a 3.0 GPA requirement.
Senate Democrats said Gov. Deal’s proposal to lower the grade point average requirement in Georgia’s HOPE Grant for students in the technical college system is a reasonable first step, but doesn’t go far enough to repair the broken HOPE Grant and Scholarship programs.
Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, whip of the Senate Democratic Caucus, is an author of Senate Bill 59 that would reduce the GPA from 3.0 to 2.0 for a HOPE Grant recipient. The measure is similar to the Gov. Deal’s recent HOPE Grant proposal. But Fort said real HOPE reform is a multi-prong approach that requires the state’s leadership to account for all current and future students and requires changes across the grant and scholarship spectrum.
“The purpose of the HOPE Grant and the HOPE Scholarship programs is to make attendance to training institutes and colleges more accessible and affordable for Georgians. Year after year, we continue to reduce access by raising student requirements and raising tuition. It’s a lethal combination, not only for our students, but for the future of Georgia’s economy,” Fort said.
Fort said Gov. Deal has recognized that since he took office there has been a decline in enrollment in the technical school system and in the University System. The state has seen a disproportionate drop in the technical school system. Fort pointed out that the establishment of the higher GPA is only one factor to diminished support for technical school students. Elimination of textbooks from the grant, along with a reduction in the amount of tuition covered, are also factors in the decreased enrollment.
“It is unfathomable to me that our state leadership believes HOPE is a quick fix. Some 42,000 students have felt the pinch of rising tuition and increased attendance standards. In the Governor’s latest reform, 30,000 or more technical school students will be left out in the cold. What do we say to them and those who would be educated through the HOPE Scholarship program?” said Fort.
Responding to Deal’s suggestion that any additional ideas or proposals for HOPE would bankrupt our state, Fort said, “What will bankrupt our state is not having properly trained individuals with the skills to help us pull out of this recession. What will bankrupt this state is poorly prioritizing our state budget needs by not placing education as the number one priority. It reflects poor economic planning,” Fort said.
In a press conference at the Georgia state capitol this week, Fort and his Senate Democratic colleagues introduced a number of HOPE Grant and Scholarship program measures intended to help shed light on the range of financial problems.
“In the past year alone, we have seen a decrease in HOPE Grant recipients by 20 percent in every district across the state,” said Fort. “This decrease comes at time when Georgia families are experiencing historically low incomes and our economy is in desperate need of the kind of educated workforce that our technical schools can provide. Senate Democrats intend to stand and fight for Georgians,” Fort said.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog