The announcement said:
This will be a Rally for the Hope Scholarship and a Voter Registration. Everyone concerned about HOPE is invited. We will have guest speakers and will hear from those students and families affected by the current status of HOPE.
The featured speaker was Janice Barrocas of HOPE for Georgia, which is running a three year nonpartisan campaign to save HOPE scholarships.
Bikram Mohanty explained that there will be a shortfall of $270 million for the HOPE scholarships in 2012. Janice Barrocas pointed out there were really two HOPEs now: the other one being the Zell Miller scholarships. Bikram showed a map that illustrates that very few Zell Miller Scholarships go to south Georgia.
Janice Barrocas and Bikram Mohanty discussed that HOPE is funded by a lottery, and lottery funds are down in the recession. The blue line on the chart is deposits from the lottery into the HOPE program, the red line is expenditures, and the green line, dropping rapidly, is reserves at the end of the year.
Janice Barrocas noted that
The end users of this program were not at the table
when the recent HOPE changes were passed. Especially students mostly found out when they got stuck with bigger bills they had to pay. Students and their families may still be too polite to mention they have financial troubles, but it’s time to break the culture of silence when it’s a choice between the family eating or the student going to school. Betty Marini pointed out students loans add up to $1 trillion dollars, which is a huge drag on the economy.
Matt Flumerfelt observed that there is a push for divestiture and privatization these days, and he wondered if the silence around the quick passage of the recent HOPE changes wasn’t because it was a money grab for the lottery funds.
Tech school HOPE is grants, and most tech school students get them. If HOPE went away, the lottery would remain and its funds would get repurposed. There’s a Georgia law against tampering with HOPE funds, but has it been broken? Kristi Lamarca noted that the original argument against the lottery was the money would get diverted. Matt Flumerfelt wondered if a legal challenge might be possible. Janice Barrocas discovered the lottery was not overwhelmingly approved by the voters: it just squeaked by with 100,000 votes.
Tech Ed funding has a gap: funding has gone down, especially compared to hours taken.
Text book funding could be a legal problem, noted Bikram Mohanty and Janice Barrocas. Yet most people don’t know about any of this, and won’t talk to their legislators unless they do know about it.
Lowndes High School Senior Nathan Wilkins was accepted to Georgia Tech, but changes in HOPE and Zell Miller funding and rules mean he can’t afford to go. At VSU, there is no engineering program like at Georgia Tech. His best hope is to go to VSU and transfer to Georgia Tech later, but using what funds?
Recent VSU graduate Bethany talked to Buddy Pooler, Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. She was telling him things in the bill that he was unaware of. Nathan Wilkins added that the online AP courses are much harder, with no one to motivate you.
Here’s a playlist, which includes more videos than those described here. And there are some more videos to come.
Videos of Rally for Georgia’s HOPE scholarships,
Rally for Hope, Lanier County Democratic Party (LCDP), Betty Marini Chair,
Lakeland, Lanier County, Georgia, 24 March 2012.
Videos by John S. Quarterman and Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE).