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Monday, January 23, 2012 - 11:27am

Senate Democrats Want HOPE Income Cap

State Democratic Leaders want to re-instate an income cap on Georgia’s HOPE college scholarship program. They say it would help shore up the program’s finances and give more needy students a chance.

Officials overseeing the HOPE scholarship say by 2016, the scholarship will cover less than half of the University of Georgia’s tuition and fees. They estimate the lottery would need $100 million more a year, starting this year, to avoid that scenario.

But Senate Democrats are recommending a different solution. Sen. Jason Carter of Atlanta says a bill he’s drafted would set an income cap each year.

“And it will set as high as possible to maximize the number of students who get the full HOPE scholarship," Carter says. "For this next fiscal year, if the cap was set at a family income of $140,000, over 90 percent of Georgia families would still be eligible. And in some parts of Georgia it would cover every single HOPE scholar.”

In its first year, the scholarship program had an income cap of about $60,000. Lawmakers removed the cap two years ago when the economy was stronger.

State Democratic Leaders also want to remove a grade point average requirement for scholarship recipients to state technical colleges. The rule was part of a scholarship overhaul the legislature passed last year.

Officials with the state’s technical college system have told legislators there are 4,200 fewer grant recipients this year because of the overhaul.

Carter says creating barriers to education is bad for the economy:

“Everyone agrees that if we want a strong economy, we need more students in our technical schools," Carter says. "This is the fast-track to jobs, it is a fast track to a growing economy and we have legislation that will repeal last year’s failed changes to the HOPE grant.”

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