MACON, Ga. --Georgia lawmakers are now weighing in on the predicted lack of funding for the HOPE scholarship in Georgia.
A report released Wednesday by the Committee to Preserve HOPE Scholarships says that the HOPE scholarship program could run out of money by the year 2028. The HOPE scholarship provides students with a 3.0 GPA in Georgia to get the majority of their tuition paid for.
The author of the report, Nancy Badertsher, says they "ran a scenario looking at the current funding levels and the current projections of growth on the program."
She says rising higher education prices and the increase of students taking advantage of the program will contribute to the coming deficit.
There are many students that take advantage of the program in Middle Georgia. The committee reports that more than 44,000 students have received the HOPE scholarship in 2014 in Bibb County alone. Badertsher also adds that 44% of the incoming Freshman class at Middle Georgia State University are HOPE scholarship recipients.
We caught up with Georgia Senator David Lucas. He says past actions by the Georgia Legislature may have a part to play in the predicted deficit. He said "When the economy went bad we didn't fund the university sytem, what the presidents looked at was that HOPE will pay for everything and just raise the tuition so we broke that up."
Lucas says some legislators in the capital want to bring casino gambling to Georgia. He says that could possibly bring in enough money to bridge the HOPE scholarship funding gap. "I think when you bring in money, real, hard cash money it can help to offset." Lucas said.
In our interview today Badertsher said
“This raises the issue that we should keep our eye on the ball and make sure this program can be preserved and do whatever is necessary for that.”
She said in the report she didn't explore solutions to the potential funding gap for the HOPE scholarship. But she added that the solution will take many different groups of people working together. “I think the discussion needs to involve the General Assembly which is tasked with overseeing the HOPE scholarship, the governor, but I think all Georgians are stakeholders in this and should be part of the discussion, because again, no program has done more to help the state.” she said.
The program was started in 1993. Since then the Committee reports that 1.7 million students in Georgia have benefited from the scholarship.