(AJC) — A day after the Georgia House overwhelmingly approved an overhaul of the HOPE scholarship, Democrats and college students attacked the bill and released alternative plans to restore the cuts. Senate Democrats proposed giving full tuition scholarships to high-achieving students whose families earn up to $140,000 a year. The income cap would provide full scholarships to 94 percent of Georgia families, Sen. Jason Carter, D-Atlanta, said Wednesday.
The plan also tweaks the proposed Zell Miller Scholarship so that it would cover tuition, books and fees for students who graduate in the top 3 percent of their high schools, he said. About 10 percent of HOPE recipients would qualify for this, Carter estimated. The suggestions countered the changes outlined in House Bill 326, which is Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to overhaul the cash-strapped program. The bill, which had bipartisan support in the House, moved to the Senate.
The bill looks at students’ grades and does not take income into account. It ties the award to lottery revenue, not tuition rates, so it could vary annually. For this coming fall, it will be 90 percent of current tuition levels, meaning it won’t cover the double-digit tuition increase expected at some colleges. Students also would lose money for books and mandatory fees.