Georgia’s lottery-funded HOPE program has been the envy of many states since its inception in 1993. But because of the downturn in the economy the program is facing a financial deficit.
Sen. Steve Gooch and Rep. Amos Amerson discussed these cuts in their columns last week. The cuts are spread throughout the program, so not just one part is affected. But there are two parts of the HOPE program which many feel should not be cut at all and with some adjustments, they would not have to be.
First is the pre-K program. Early childhood education has been proven to be an important factor in the success of children when they enter public school. By cutting the hours from six to four per day, you would be taking away over a third of their classroom time.
The second program that should not be touched is the HOPE Grant. With the HOPE Grant any Georgia resident can attend one of our excellent Technical Colleges with tuition and books paid for.
There is no high school grade point average requirement and it doesn’t matter what year you graduated from high school. You must pass the classes you take to obtain your diploma or certificate, but there is not a GPA requirement.
The change that has been proposed would require the student to maintain a 3.0 GPA. Someone who had been a machinist for 15 years and then lost his job, and couldn’t find another in his field might begin a program at one of our Technical Colleges in auto mechanics. If this person made a 2.8 in the first semester after being out of school for 15 year he would no longer receive the HOPE Grant. This scenario would play out all over our state. We would end up with more people out of work with no training for the jobs that are available.
One solution is to make the entire HOPE program subject to an income cap on a sliding scale so that at some point only a small percentage of funds go to high-income families. The proposal for a special scholarship for students making a 1,200 on the SAT and a 3.7 in school would remain for all students regardless of income. Please ask your senator and representative to think more about the future of the HOPE Grant and pre-K funding.