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Monday, August 2, 2010 - 10:55am

Lawmakers Meet To Help HOPE

A committee meeting of state lawmakers Monday sounded the alarm on evaporating funding for Georgia’s HOPE scholarship. One lawmaker says “the days are gone” where lottery proceeds can match money spent on HOPE.

With enrollment to the state’s colleges soaring and the bad economy sending more people back to school, the HOPE program is being stretched thin.

Already, for the first time in nearly a decade, lottery-funded HOPE is dipping into its reserves. And officials say one of those reserve accounts could be exhausted by next summer, with HOPE running a deficit of more than $500 million in two years.

Republican state Senator Seth Harp chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee. He says many ideas need to be explored to help keep HOPE going.

“It may well be that we have to scale-back the HOPE scholarship in terms of...scaling-back not so much the amount, but the eligibility.”

From Atlanta Democratic state Senator Nan Orrock, this idea she’d like to see get traction.

“I’m really interested in being sure that we’re not simply funding school for kids that could otherwise go to school anyway. I think we need to look at ‘needs based funding’ as well...that’s not in this program now.”

Orrock and other committee members want a plan to restructure the HOPE program in time for the next legislative session.

A series of state law “trigger” remedies is already set to go into effect in 2012. That includes cutting textbook allowances for students on HOPE.