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Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 1:44pm

HOPE Changes Pass Senate

Updated: 3 years ago.
After four hours of debate, the Georgia Senate Wednesday evening passed a bill dramatically overhauling the cash-strapped HOPE scholarship program. The bill is part of Gov. Nathan Deal's plan to keep lottery programs like HOPE and pre-kindergarten from going broke. It passed 35-20. (Photo of the UGA Arch by Paul Efland, University of Georgia.)

Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to overhaul the HOPE college scholarship program passed the state Senate after a four-hour debate Tuesday. The vote was 35-20.

Several Democratic amendments failed, including one that would have protected current recipients from cuts.

Shouts from groups of students to “Kill the Bill” and “Keep Hope Alive” interrupted debate but failed to sway the majority of Senators.

Republican Senator Jim Butterworth said the scholarship program is in financial difficulty and the bill will safeguard it for the future.

“We are not losing HOPE," Butterworth said. "We are creating HOPE reform that will fix this program for generations."

The Senate passed an amendment that would give the full scholarship to the top two students at every high school in Georgia. Under the bill, most scholarship recipients would receive 90 percent of tuition next year.

Awards would be set each year by the Legislature rather than being tied to tuition rates.

Democrats have said the bill is unfair to poor and minority students and the Lottery Corp. should give more money to education coffers before the awards are cut.

The measure now goes back to the state House to get approval for changes made in the Senate.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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