ATLANTA, GA - Democratic lawmakers in Georgia are making a move to expand the state's popular HOPE scholarship. Cuts were made to the program two years ago, but Republicans say restoring those cuts can't happen just yet.
"It's one thing to tell our best and brightest to do all you can and we will take care of you when you get to college and then we don't fulfill our obligation," said Sen. Lester Jackson, (D) District 2.
The state Senate Democratic Caucus blasted republican leaders for making college tougher for thousands of Georgia students - for cutting most HOPE tuition payments to only 90% with no more book and fee reimbursements; for contributing to a 20% drop in technical college enrollment.
They presented a package of bills that would restore 100% of tuition, make the top 3% of all high school students eligible for total coverage, and lower the HOPE grant requirement from 3.0 back to a 2.0 grade average for technical college students.
A republican leader praised the ideas, but said lottery sales have not increased enough to pay for them yet.
"I hope we can get to some of those things in the future, but right now I applaud Governor Deal for doing the 3%," said Sen. Cecil Staton, (R) District 18. "It's what our budget and our current financial resources will allow and it's a good first step."
Thanks to a slight improvement in lottery sales, Governor Deal has proposed increasing HOPE tuition payments by 3% and restoring the full pre-kindergarten program, but that's all.
Democrats are hopeful pressure from the public will encourage lawmakers to make the changes.