In March, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law changes to the HOPE Scholarship program. The bill reduces the tuition coverage and eliminates payments for books and fees.
First approved in November 2002, the HOPE Scholarship program is funded by the Georgia lottery. Since its inception, the program has provided more than $5 billion to more than 1.2 million students. This school year, the Hope Scholarship awarded $725.5 million to nearly 250,000 students. The money funded represents a 13 percent increase over the previous year.
In recent years, the lottery has started paying out more money than it takes in, partly due to increased enrollment and tuition over recent years. In the first year it was available, just 21.4 million was awarded. If something didn't change, officials expected that by fiscal year 2013 that lottery reserves would dried, and that additional payments could not be made.
As seniors prepare for college, here's what students should know about the changes that go into effect in the fall.
1. Requirements have not changed. Students must still obtain a 3.0 GPA or higher to qualify.
2. Students receiving a 3.7 GPA or higher and a 1,200 on the SAT or a 26 on the ACT will be recognized as Zell Miller Scholars. In addition, students who are valedictorian or salutatorian will also be deemed Zell Miller Scholars. These students will receive an award that covers full tuition at public colleges, or $4,000 toward private school expenses.
3. 2. Payments will now fluctuate with lottery revenues. In the fall of 2011, the HOPE Scholarship will cover 90 percent of the standard tuition rate at public colleges. Students at private colleges will receive an award of $3,600.
4. Payments no longer cover books and fees
5. If you currently, receive an award that covers full tuition, but will still be attending college this fall, you only remain eligible if you met the Zell Miller Scholar requirements in the year that you graduated. You are not grandfathered in.
6. Payments do not cover remedial courses.
7. There remains no family income cap to be eligible for the HOPE Scholarship program.
8. If a student drops below a 3.0 GPA in college, they will have one chance to raise it before the HOPE award is eliminated.
9. Students now have a seven-year window to use their awards; those in the military are exempt from this rule.
10. Beginning in 2015, graduating seniors must take a certain number of advanced or rigorous courses to be eligible.