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Thursday, March 18, 2010 - 9:30am

State Reserves To Boost Lottery-Funded Education Programs

State officials are dipping into reserves to help pay for education programs funded by the Georgia Lottery for the first time in nearly a decade.

At the same time, leaders in the state Senate are pushing to expand the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship program to help 50,000 poor students pay to attend Georgia's public colleges. A bill that would create a $30 million need-based grant program passed a Senate committee Wednesday.

Georgia Student Finance Corp. leaders say the education programs - including statewide prekindergarten and the HOPE scholarship - cost $100 million more than what lottery ticket sales can fund.

That will mean tapping into a $900 million reserve fund for the first time since 2001.

It will also mean reducing textbook stipends for the more than 200,000 college students on the HOPE scholarship starting in 2012.

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