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Flat Lottery, Too Many Students, Even Snow Mean HOPE Cuts | News

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Flat Lottery, Too Many Students, Even Snow Mean HOPE Cuts
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Flat Lottery, Too Many Students, Even Snow Mean HOPE Cuts

ATLANTA -- Most of them know the bad news is coming.

Most of Georgia's more than 300,000 state college students know they'll see even higher tuition next year and even fewer benefits from the HOPE Scholarship.

"I'm gonna have to find alternative ways to finance my coming here," Georgia State University freshman Kenja McNeil said, adding that those will probably include, "loans, scholarships, more scholarships and more scholarships."

Lottery proceeds have poured about $15 billion into the HOPE and pre-kindergarten programs since they began 17 years ago.

Right now, about 200,000 state college students receive HOPE benefits.

But lottery sales have flattened out, according to Margaret DeFrancisco, CEO of the Georgia Lottery Corporation.

Wednesday morning she told the University System's State Board of Regents that's thanks to the recession, growing competition from other states...and even January's winter storm.

"The snow storm destroyed us," she said. "I mean absolutely destroyed us, and I don't know how we'll ever make that up."

Tim Connell, President of the Georgia Student Finance Commission also told the Regents that the number of HOPE students surpassed lottery contributions for the first time last year and continues to soar.

He predicted the nearly $1 billion reserve fund could shrink to just over $300 million over the next couple of years if something doesn't change.

Connell said Georgia is just one of several states whose lottery-funded scholarships have become too popular.

"Florida, Tennessee for example, they've had to look at their benefit structure because like us, if you will, they have also been the victims of their own success," Connell said. 

Connell outlined several possible changes to HOPE benefits that are floating around the State Capitol.

Among them:

*No more book and fee payments
*No more second chance for students who lose HOPE
*No more coverage for tuition hikes
*A minimum SAT score
*Increase in-state residency from 1 to 3 years
*Limit the number of eligibility years for a Bachelor's degree
*A flat tuition rate
*Tougher high school requirements

While the Regents set tuition rates, it will be up to the State Legislature to make any changes in the HOPE requirements, which they're expected to do over the next couple of months.

Everyone involved, including students and their parents, realizes that many of Georgia's 300,000 state college students will have less HOPE in the near future.

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