With HOPE scholarships facing long-term funding problems, Georgia Democrats once again propose means testing and other measures

Last spring I wrote about Georgia democrats’ hopes to change HOPE.

Now democrats in the state legislature are filing a variety of bills that would guarantee larger scholarships for lower-income Georgians and seem to shore up HOPE’s very shaky long-term finances.

From the AJC:

Senate Bill 336 would reinstate a cap on family income for students to be eligible for HOPE, starting at $140,000 per family. A cap existed when the program began, but was quickly lifted after the lottery proved financially successful.

Senate Bill 335 would erase a new 3.0 GPA requirement for technical college students receiving grant money through the HOPE program. The technical grants are different from the scholarship and tend to benefit students who are older and likely supporting families of their own.

Senate Bill 334 would eliminate an SAT requirement for the state’s new Zell Miller program, which was launched last year by Gov. Nathan Deal to provide full tuition to the state’s highest-achieving students. Instead, graduating seniors in the top 3 percent of every high school in Georgia would automatically qualify.

It seems that funding from the Georgia Lottery has plateaued, or at least won’t keep pace with the demand created by increased population, increased demand for public higher education in Georgia, and increased costs.

I’m assuming the data from last year is still pretty valid. About 93% of HOPE scholars in Chatham County are from families that make less than $140,000/year. Many counties — especially in rural parts of the state — do not have a single HOPE scholar from a family with an income that high.

The loosening of GPA requirements for the technical college grants would seem to open more opportunities for those interested in skilled trades who may not have done well in traditional high school courses. I support that measure, as well as the intent of SB 334.

I’ve always had concerns about the deleterious societal effects of the Georgia Lottery, but its use for HOPE funding has been a great story for the state.

Given the republican dominance of the state government, these bills face an uphill climb, but they all deserve a hearing.