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Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - 11:27am

Students Protest HOPE Cuts

More than a hundred students marched from Georgia State University to the state capitol steps in downtown Atlanta to protest changes to the HOPE scholarship program.

The bill the house passed Tuesday would cut most recipients’ funding by 10 percent.

It would fully fund high school graduates with a 3.7 grade point average, and pay for 90 percent of the tuition for those with a 3.0 GPA and higher.

Marilyn Zumwalt is a sophomore at Oglethorpe University who receives the HOPE grant for private universities. She says the new restriction would reward lazy students

"And to expect students to maintain a 3.7 GPA in high school, they’re not going to take the harder classes," says Zumwalt. "They’re going to go for the easier ones that they know they can get an A in so they know they can insure their future in college."

In order to maintain the full scholarship, college students would have to maintain a 3.3 GPA. Zumwalt says her grades are high enough to keep it, but she worries for her peers.

The bill is now being reviewed by the state senate.

Senate Democrats unveiled their own plan to change the program that faces a $200 million deficit.

Democratic Senator Jason Carter of Atlanta says their proposal keeps the current 3.0 grade point average requirement, but sets an income limit on who receives full coverage of tuition.

"Our plan would restore 100 percent of HOPE for the 94 percent of Georgians with a family income of up to $140,000," says Carter.

Carter says the plan would also fully fund the top three percent of all students from Georgia high schools.

The proposal also requires the Lottery Corporation raise the amount of revenue it gives to education by two percent.

Senate Republican leadership has suggested tying lottery bonuses to the amount contributed to education rather than sales profits and limiting bonuses.