State lawmakers are split over how to fix the HOPE college scholarship’s finances, with some pushing an income cap. By 2016, officials project the award will cover less than half of the University of Georgia’s tuition and fees.
HOPE’s financial projections mean that scholarship recipients at UGA in 2016 would spend more from their own pockets than the award amount would provide.
Senate Democrats are calling for the income cap. The scholarship program had one in its early years, and they say many scholarship recipients don’t need the money.
"I think it's something we need to look at," said Rep. Kathy Ashe of Atlanta.
She said she's concerned that most of the scholarship money goes to students who attend the state's top two schools, UGA and Georgia Institute of Technology. Those are also the most expensive. That leaves little for other students.
But Sen. Buddy Carter, a Pooler Republican and chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, says an income cap will deter students from attending Georgia colleges.
“It’s a merit-based scholarship," he said, following a meeting of the committee. "Remember what the purpose of the HOPE scholarship was: it was to keep the best and the brightest in our state. I don’t think we should be penalizing someone for their parents’ income.”
State university official say the tuition costs are now the main reason students drop out.
The Georgia Lottery funds the HOPE scholarship. Tuition hikes and college enrollment growth have strained the program's finances.