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Monday, January 9, 2012 - 1:55pm

HOPE Scholarship To Shrink

State officials overseeing the HOPE scholarship told legislators Monday that by 2016, the college scholarship will cover less than half of the University of Georgia’s tuition and fees if lottery proceeds remain constant. Officials say the lottery would need $100 million more a year to avoid that scenario.

The Georgia Student Finance Commission says UGA students would spend $2,700 in fees and tuition each semester. The HOPE scholarship would only provide $2,400.

That means scholarship recipients would spend more from their own pockets than the award amount would provide. Projections for UGA was one of a handful of tuition scenarios officials prepared.

Tim Connell is with the student finance commission. He says the reduced payouts would affect enrollment.

“The cost of attending college now has become the biggest reason students drop out," he told legislators. "If the support that they can receive from the HOPE program is lower, it’s going to have an adverse consequence on some students’ being able to stay and complete college.”

The Georgia Lottery funds the HOPE scholarship.

Legislators also heard presentations on video lottery terminals, and some said the gaming machines could solve the revenue problem.

Rep. Ron Stephens, a Savannah Republican, says he supports them.

“I’d like the people of Savannah to have the opportunity to vote if they’d like to have the video lottery terminals there in a congregated area, especially in the high tourism areas, and that’s the No. 1 industry in Savannah,” he said following the briefing.

Lottery officials say the video terminal tickets are no different from the paper ones. But they say they won’t move forward with video lottery without the state legislature’s okay.

Stephens says legislation is not required to allow them. He says it's up to the lottery corporation to pursue the possibility.