Democrat Stacey Evans honed her higher education plan Friday, saying one of her first acts if she’s elected governor would be to provide tuition-free technical college programs to Georgia students.
The former state legislator entered the race last year on a pledge to provide to boost the HOPE grant program, which once provided tuition and fees to all tech school students who maintained a 2.0 grade point average.
In a campaign stop in Augusta, she said she would boost the program by dipping into the lottery’s reserve funds. And she outlined a proposal to give tech college systems more say over what programs it offers.
“No one knows their local economies’ needs better than those driving the public-private partnerships in their communities between local industries and the local technical colleges,” read her policy. “Bureaucrats in Atlanta should not make these decisions.”
Evans and her primary opponent, former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, have clashed throughout the campaign over tech school funding and the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship.
In 2011, lawmakers approved a plan pushed by Gov. Nathan Deal that would restructure the HOPE program by increasing the grade requirements for tech students and reducing the award payments.
The lower grade requirements were restored during the 2013 legislative session, and Deal has slowly bolstered the HOPE grant program since then. He wants lawmakers to expand the program to cover students in 17 fields, including computer programing and film set design.
Abrams and Evans had sharply contrasting views of the proposal.
Abrams said the scholarship was “dying” and she had little choice but to seek a compromise with Deal and the GOP in 2011 to stave off deeper cuts. She said as governor she would also prioritize making tech college free for every Georgians.
Evans said Democrats were betrayed by that 2011 measure, which Abrams co-sponsored, and she’s made it a central part of her stump speech.
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