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Georgia gov. proposes major changes in lottery program – Governor Zell Miller

Augusta, GA — The Georgia Lottery has produced cash for winners and scholarships for students. But Gov. Zell Miller (D) has proposed changes in the system that critics charge could deny hundreds of African Americans the hope of going to college.

Since 1993, the Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally scholarship program — nicknamed HOPE — has been funded with money channeled from the state lottery. This year, Georgia expects to award about $108 million in scholarships. Public and private colleges are expected to share the money equally. But that’s where the equality ends.

A Georgia high school graduate with a B average can qualify for a $2,000 scholarship to attend an in-state public college and $1,500 to attend an in-state private college.

To keep the scholarship, public college students must maintain a B average in all courses, including electives, but private college students do not need to maintain any preset grade requirement in order to keep the scholarship.

Miller is proposing that private college students must maintain a B average to keep the scholarship and that only the core courses such as English, math and science should be used to calculate the grade average.

Miller said the proposed standards will “enable us to send to college better-prepared students who will be less likely to lose their scholarships once they get there. That way, everybody wins — the students and the colleges they attend.”

But, says Gary Henry of the Georgia State University’s Applied Research Center. that may mean fewer African-American students might qualify.

Forty-four percent of all HOPE students in 1994-95 would not have scholarships under Miller’s new rules, Henry said. That includes 3 percent fewer African-American students.

Although the proposed changes have been talked about for a year and a half, they only recently gained momentum as Miller has entered the second year of his second term.

Miller won re-election in a close race and in his second term he has made education, on all levels, a priority. His HOPE proposals are part of a bill submitted to a joint House-Senate committee, which is considering changes in the half-completed 1995-96 state budget.

Miller proposes to spend $30.8 million in additional funds for the HOPE scholarship program, money that would come from lottery ticket sales.

Legislators are considering the proposals during the current session of the General Assembly. If approved, the new rules would apply to students entering the ninth-grade in 1997.

According to the Georgia Council for School Performance (GCSP), 16,376 students, 20 percent of whom were African American, received scholarships in 1994-95,

Miller said he relied on GCSP data to evaluate the program. He said he saw the data as showing “approximately the same ratio of students will still receive HOPE — male, female, white, African American.”

Paine Officials Worried

“It will have quite an impact on us,” said Andrina Scott-Elliott, director of financial aid at Paine College in Augusta, a private, historically Black college with more than 800 students. In 1994-95, 527 Paine students were HOPE students, scholarship officials said.

Paine and other private colleges in Georgia have aggressively opposed the changes.

Currently, all in-state Paine students quality for HOPE, Scott-Elliott said. If the governor’s rules are approved, only a third would qualify.

Scott-Elliott said the governor and his staff have implied, with their proposals, that private colleges do not require high standards for enrollment. “The insinuation was that students at private schools were not as prepared,” she said. The standard is to accept students with a 2.0 grade point average, she said.

Paine will likely change its recruitment strategies if the HOPE changes pass, Scott-Elliott said. The school put more emphasis on in-state students when HOPE was created. but it may return to heavily recruiting students from out of state.

“We are watchful and very concerned,” Scott-Elliott said. “We do have the opportunity to voice our opposition to the ruling in regard to the impact it would have at private institutions in the state. We encourage everyone with a vested interest in the state to contact our legislators in regard to their concern.”

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COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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