ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Major cuts could be coming to the HOPE scholarship program, and that could create a financial hardship for many of you.
200,000 Georgians depend on HOPE to help pay for college, and more than 80,000 4-year olds go to preschool free.
But lottery revenues that fund those programs aren't keeping up with the increased number of students and the increased price of tuition.
Students we spoke to at Darton say the HOPE scholarship is a major reason they are able to afford college and without it, they may not be here. Even slight cuts could hurt their ability to pay. They want to keep HOPE alive.
One South Georgia Legislator says changes must be considered by lawmakers and the Board of Regents.
It's the last chance for students at Darton College to apply for financial Aid. Tequela Dukes stood in line Thursday morning looking for any help she could get, including the HOPE scholarship which kept more money in her pocket last semester.
"It was $1,500 per semester and that was a big difference," she said.
It makes a big difference for Amber Espinoza, too. So much, she's not sure how she would pay for school without it. "Without the HOPE scholarship, I feel like a lot of people wouldn't be able to attend college."
But the state can't continue to pay for HOPE with current lottery revenues, because the amount of tuition has increased so much.
"The tuition increases are far outpacing the increases in lottery revenues. Last year, there was about a 15% increase in tuition costs." said Representative Ed Rynders.
He also says he doesn't want the Board of Regents to think of HOPE as a supplement. "It's my hope that students and family members, parents, will get involved and engage the Board of Regents and the University System of Georgia and say, 'you've got to slow down on your rate of tuition increases, because I think that's the biggest solution."
Other solutions may mean changing the way HOPE is handed out by:
Increasing the GPA requirement for incoming freshmen
Removing the scholarship for students taking remedial course work
Tying HOPE to financial need
Espinoza is okay with changes, and even has her own suggestions. "I think if they're going to make changes then they should make it to where you have to have a higher GPA and maybe look into attendance policies a little harder."
But whatever changes are necessary, the students we met just hope the scholarship stays. "I say we keep hope. Keep HOPE alive."
In order to keep the dream of higher education alive.
There's also a question about how the HOPE grant is handed out. It's different than the HOPE scholarship, but comes from the same pool of money.
It covers tuition, some fees and provides a book allowance, regardless of a student's GPA.
A $320 Million deficit in lottery money is predicted for the 2012 fiscal year.
HOPE was created in 1993 under the supervision of Governor Zell Miller. Money for the scholarship program comes entirely from the Georgia Lottery and is administered by the Georgia Student Finance Commission. Hope is available to any Georgia student who graduates with a 3.0 grade point average.