HOPE scholarshipsGeorgia Gov. Nathan Deal's proposed changes to the HOPE scholarship would significantly alter the pledge that Georgia made to students back in 1992. Georgia schoolchildren have been promised free college tuition and other aid for achieving and maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

These promises have proven impossible to keep as GPAs have risen to meet the grant (very likely due to grade inflation), the cost of tuition has spiraled, and the funding has outgrown its source of financing -- Georgia Lottery revenues. The proposals by Gov. Deal (pictured) aim to keep the program within its means.

Here's what he advocates:
  • The HOPE Scholarship will continue to be awarded to students maintaining a 3.0 GPA. However, incoming freshman will have to take "rigorous" classes to qualify.
  • It will no longer pay 100% of tuition. Instead, the amount paid will be tied to lottery revenue. For the 2011 fiscal year, 90% of the tuition will be paid.
  • Students in private colleges will have their scholarships cut from $4,000 to $3,600.
  • It will no longer pay for mandatory books or fees.
  • It will no longer pay for more than 127 credit hours. Most bachelor degrees can be earned in 120. (This leaves little room for exploration or waffling.)
  • The HOPE Grant (for technical and junior colleges) will only pay for up to 63 semester hours. Most associate degrees can be earned in 60.
  • The HOPE Grant is no longer available for students with a post-secondary degree.
  • A new scholarship, the Zell Miller Scholarship, will be awarded to students with at least a 3.7 GPA and 1200 SAT score (not including the writing section), or a 26 on the ACT. It gives full tuition at public colleges and $4,000 to private colleges. Students must maintain a 3.5 GPA to keep it.
  • Low interest loans (at about 1%) will be available to students who do not keep their Hope Scholarships by maintaining their GPA. The loan will be forgiven should the student go on to teach math or science in Georgia's public schools. One year will be forgiven for each year the student teaches, and $10 million will be appropriated for these loans.
These proposals to the HOPE scholarships are just that -- proposals. The bill introduced Tuesday was to be considered Wednesday by a House Appropriations subcommittee. Any changes made to the HOPE scholarship will affect new and existing HOPE recipients. The changes are expected to save at least $300 million.

In addition to changes in the HOPE scholarship, Deal's proposal also will put a 25% cap on the salaries of lottery employees and lower, from 7% to 5%, the amount of the award given to stores that sell winning tickets.

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