Georgia’s Latest Scholarship Problem

Georgia’s HOPE scholarship, a college funding program cut dramatically by its legislature last March, may soon be in even worse shape.

According to an article by Kristina Torres and Laura Diamond in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution :

Georgia’s new Zell Miller Scholarship, launched last year by Gov. Nathan Deal to provide full tuition to the state’s highest-achieving students, is likely to be an even bigger drain on an already strained HOPE program as more scholars than expected qualify.

As a result, HOPE scholars will see their financial awards shrink even further than predicted over the next several years, leaving them and their parents to pay higher out-of-pocket expenses for college.

The HOPE scholarship used to provide essentially free tuition to most reasonably successful students. The system’s funding problems (college tuition became more expensive but state lottery revenues—which fund HOPE—failed to increase significantly) prompted the legislature to cut the amount the HOPE scholarship provides.

But Georgia politicians, anxious to keep at least the most popular part of the program alive, created a separate scholarship to reward students with high GPAs and standardized test scores. That’s the Zell Miller Scholarship, named for the governor who created the original HOPE Scholarship more than 20 years ago.

The governor, Nathan Deal, has a budget granting $575.3 million for HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships. The Georgia Student Finance Commission, however, estimates that the state needs $602.6 million to fund the programs.

The monetary problem is that there are about 5,000 more students qualifying for the Zell Miller Scholarship than the finance commission anticipated.

Zell Miller provides free tuition to all students who decide to attend Georgia state colleges. HOPE provides about $1000 less every year.

About 75 percent of students attending Georgia state colleges receive some type state scholarship.

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