The HOPE scholarship, the generous Georgia tuition plan allowing qualified Georgia students to go to college essentially for free, has basically been gutted, because the state isn’t able to generate enough money to fund it.

As Georgia Governor Nathan Deal put it, he was cutting the program back dramatically because the state was “facing bankruptcy of the lottery program in 2013.” The lottery provides the money for the HOPE scholarships.

And yet somehow there still seems to be a great deal of state money available for private colleges in Georgia. According to an article by James Salzer and Laura Diamond in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Inside the Statehouse, a strong lobbying effort led by politically active private college presidents has worked to persuade lawmakers to maintain about $110 million in state funding for their colleges.

In the spending plan adopted by the House recently, the amount of scholarship money for public school students will drop 20 percent. Funding for private college HOPE scholarships will change little. In fact, HOPE awards for private college students will be higher than they were a year ago.

Many complained about the influence of lobbyists for private colleges. Both public and private colleges, however, lobbied the legislature heavily to preserve HOPE funding.

Officials from the private Mercer University are particularly politically involved. According to the article, Mercer administrators donated more than $100,000 to political candidates. All major state lawmakers got cash from Mercer people. The president of the University of Georgia, in contrast, gave a mere $350 in political contributions.

Deal graduated from Mercer in 1964. He earned his law degree there in 1966.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer