Two bills may better student chances for HOPE scholarship

Nursing students must spend hours at a time studying in order to get into the best programs of their choice. Photo by Julian Pineda | The Signal

Georgia legislators have continued to push forward two bills that could significantly change the chances of financial aid for Georgia students.

House Bill 928, first proposed in the House several years ago, aims to extend the HOPE scholarship time limit after receiving a high school diploma or GED from seven to 15 years. The second piece of legislation, Senate Bill 405, proposes a $1,500 per-semester grant for lower income students that do not meet the GPA requirements for HOPE.

Jennifer Lee, the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s higher education expert, said the bills “would work together in terms of capturing a larger number of students and provide financial aid to them.”

“Georgia State is probably one of the colleges that could benefit the most from both of these programs, and consequently I think what happens at Georgia State does affect the state as a whole,” Lee said.

Lee said that Georgia State specifically would benefit from the passing of these two bills as the university is home to two significant undergraduate populations that would gain the benefits: students over the age of 25, and students with lower-income backgrounds.

“One, [the university is] large, and two, a quarter of the students are over the age of 25, which is very significant, and a very high population of lower to middle income students who would also qualify under the income requirements,” Lee said. “It could be a huge help to those students who are struggling with the cost of higher education.”

Because of these significant populations, a great amount of Georgia State students could potentially benefit from one, or both, of these bills.

“I think it will help a lot of Georgia students, who will have to meet all the other HOPE requirements in terms of GPA, but are cut off from the HOPE scholarship because of that somewhat arbitrary timeline. And that time limit has not always been in place,” Lee said.

These current “arbitrary” conditions of the HOPE scholarship have only been in place for about seven years, and the time limit was essentially created by legislators to cut costs following the 2008 recession.

Lee explained that the Georgia legislature brought forth reforms to the HOPE scholarship in 2011, as state funding was also getting butchered and Georgia colleges were raising tuition. That meant that scholarship amounts increased as well, because spending for HOPE largely follows tuition increases. So restrictions furthered to prevent more students from receiving HOPE as they were “running out of money in the lottery,” according to Lee.

For students like Sydney Lord, the changes around the HOPE scholarship could have prevented her from missing out on a semester of education.

A public policy major at Georgia State, Lord said she lost HOPE for one semester when she dropped below a 3.0, and that she “depended on the HOPE scholarship” to get her through college.

With the per-semester grant proposed in the Senate bill, however, she could have had less financial troubles during that time.