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HOPE scholarship budget cuts

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By Tayleigh Davis - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A wake-up call rings from the state capitol about the HOPE scholarship. The program that helps more than 200,000 students go off to college each year is giving out a lot more money than is coming in.

State House and Senate Higher Education members met Monday to discuss the problem and try to come up with ways to save HOPE.

High School seniors say they hope the scholarship will still be around to help pay for college. HOPE will continue to cover tuition, but the money students receive for fees and textbooks is being slashed. More cuts could be on the way.

High School student Shakerra Hill just started her senior year. She hopes to go on to college and major in music or biology, but she's depending on the HOPE scholarship to help foot the bill.

"It would be a major financial help for my mother to receive the HOPE Scholarship," said Hill.

Especially since she has a younger sister who will follow in her footsteps in a few years. With HOPE budget shortfalls and tighter eligibility requirements, Westover High School Guidance Director, Terry Mckay says fewer students will receive funding.

"Students will have to work hard," Mckay said. "It's not easy. Every time you make a C you have to make an A to counteract the C."

Mckay says 27 percent of his high school seniors were eligible for HOPE. That's 66 of 237 students.

"It's good to have something help you out during college and not having to pay all your expenses because you have good grades," said senior, Paige Walker.

Walker will see less help from HOPE than students in the past. The first reduction - cutting book aid from $300 to $150 in fall 2011. In 2012, it will be cut all together.

Some people complain HOPE should only go to low income students. Mckay believes no matter the income situation, hard-working students should reap the benefits.

The Georgia Lottery funds HOPE. Despite record lottery sales, HOPE is losing money because more students are attending college and tuition keeps going up. This year the Georgia Student Finance Commission that oversees HOPE had to dip into reserves for the first time in nearly 10 years.

Those reserves had gotten up to one billion dollars, but they'll likely dwindle to a third of that in two years. Those higher education committees will meet again in the fall to try to draft legislation to make changes to the HOPE program to keep it from going broke.

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