Evan Karanovich can thank the lottery for his free college classes – and he never even had the winning ticket.
The junior at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, GA, is one of many recipients of the HOPE Scholarship, a unique award that offers Georgia residents full or partial tuition, funded by the state's lottery revenue.
The amount of the award of a HOPE Scholarship varies depending on the school, but qualified students can attend any public school in Georgia without charge for tuition, which can run up to $6,000 a year at some universities. Even private school students can earn a slice of the pot. Those who are eligible in the upcoming school year will receive a flat rate of $4,000 a year, up from $3,500 last year.
The HOPE Scholarship, however, does require more than powerballs and scratch-to-win cards. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA by the end of each spring term in order to keep the merit-based award.
For Karanovich, a political science major with a 3.7 GPA, that means "they are giving you money to be a good student."
"You are getting paid to go to school. It doesn't get any better than that," Karanovich, 19, said. "With HOPE, I am more worried about the test I have next week than how I am going to afford to live."
Founded in 1993, the HOPE Scholarship set forth to make college a more affordable option for Georgia residents and, at the same time, encourage academic achievement. Since then, the program has grown tremendously, doling out approximately $391 million in HOPE scholarships to 102,000 students during the 2009 fiscal year.
"Our program is getting to the point where it is outpacing the revenue that is generating from the lottery," said Fatimot Ladipo, legislative and media liaison for the Georgia Student Finance Commission. "With tuition increases and enrollment increases, the program has really gotten to be much more expansive."
As a result, Ladipo said there will be discussions this summer to address the ways to sustain the HOPE Scholarship program since it has gained so much in popularity.
"Not only is it popular here in the state, but it's probably the model of merit-based scholarship in the nation," she said.
After all, when it comes to financing your education, Ladipo says, "you can't compete with free."
Applying for the HOPE Scholarship is relatively simple. Those who are interested can fill out a paper or online application or apply through FAFSA.
HOPE Scholarship offers Georgia students free tuition