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Concerns brewing over HOPE scholarship

August 31, 2009 (WALB) - It's a program that's helped more than one million Georgia students go to college..but officials are worried lottery funds may not be strong enough to pull the HOPE scholarship program through.

When Mary Williams moved to Albany, it was difficult for her to find a job, so like thousands of others, she decided to go back to school. "I heard about the HOPE scholarship and how they help pay for your books and your education so I came here and within a day I was done, started school in November 2008."

HOPE, which stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally, rewards students who have earned good grades by helping with the expense of college.

HOPE covers tuition, mandatory fees, and a book allowance of up to $100 per semester.

But officials with the Georgia Student Finance commission say lottery income is not keeping up with the demand for the scholarships.

"The lottery and the hope scholarship has to be solvent like any other part of state government so if the revenues decline I think its incumbent on us as college administrators to help our students adjust to that," said Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker.

GSFC officials say if the present trends continue, the first step is students will see HOPE book fees drop from 300 dollars to 150 dollars starting in fall 2012, by the year 2013 students would lose money for books altogether.

"If I had to pay for my books myself, even if I had the free tuition I don't think I could do it..nope still be too expensive," said Mary.

Next students will lose money for mandatory fees at college.

"The economy is bad right now so with everyone not having a job or not having the funds this actually helps out so if kids don't have the money to go to school there not going," said Mary.

Albany Tech President Anthony Parker says the key to preventing any financial stress is planning early, because the last thing he wants are for students to drop out of school because of potential financial issues.

Albany Tech offers Seminars to help students plan better for school so they will know what the costs are. The President also encourages students to buy used books and apply for any other scholarships and loan programs available.

Currently more than 80% of the students at Albany Technical College are going to school on the HOPE Scholarship and HOPE grant.

By  Stephanie Springer

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