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Monday, January 30, 2012 - 1:25pm

Democrats Continue HOPE Push

State Democrats have filed a bill seeking to lower requirements for technical college students who receive HOPE grants. Republicans in the majority have so far not filed any bills on HOPE but it’s the second measure from Democrats aimed at increasing access to the state’s college scholarship programs.

A bill passed last year added a 3.0 grade point average requirement for technical college scholarship recipients. It was one of several changes in response to the program’s shaky finances.

State officials now say Georgia is awarding the grant to 4,200 fewer students.

Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna has filed a bill to lower the GPA to 2.5. She says many technical college students are juggling school and work.

“There’s also many students coming back to school for the second or third time around where they’ve been laid off and they’re going back for new job training or to learn new skills or have simply decided to make a career change," she said Monday. "So keeping that 3.0 is a little bit harder when you have all those pressures on you.”

Democrats also want to re-instate an income cap on scholarships for four-year colleges. They say most of the scholarship money is going to students who need it the least.

The two bills came after officials overseeing the program said it will cover less than half of the University of Georgia’s tuition by 2016.

At a public hearing Monday, Anre’ Washington of Hinesville told lawmakers he can’t attend Morehouse College without a HOPE scholarship.

“I wouldn’t be able to continue my education," he said. "Even now, even with HOPE, there are still challenges for me purchasing books and finishing my tuition. The challenges are real.”

Republicans say they are still reviewing HOPE figures but at least some oppose an income cap.

The Georgia Lottery funds the HOPE scholarship. State education officials have said tuition cost is the main reason students are dropping out.