State lawmakers pass college student aid, campus speech zone bills

Lobbyists fill the halls on Sine Die, the last day of the General Assembly at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Monday, April 4, 2022.   (Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com)

Credit: robert.andres@ajc.com

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Lobbyists fill the halls on Sine Die, the last day of the General Assembly at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Monday, April 4, 2022. (Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com)

Credit: robert.andres@ajc.com

Georgia is one of just two states that lacks broad need-based financial aid, they say

Georgia lawmakers passed two bills on the last day of the legislative session that could have longstanding impact for students in the state’s colleges and universities.

HB 1435 would provide financial aid up to $2,500 to undergraduate college students in Georgia close to completing their degrees but who can’t pay their tuition.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, is the latest attempt by Georgia lawmakers to provide a more robust need-based aid program. Georgia is one of just two states that lacks broad need-based financial aid, lawmakers say.

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Martin believes the legislation could initially help about 4,000 students. The Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a substitute version of the bill early Tuesday.

Georgia lawmakers also passed HB 1, which would prevent “free speech zones” on public college and university campuses.

Republicans have led the charge on the bill. They say the zones and other measures targeted in the bill have made it tougher for conservative students and groups to speak on Georgia campuses.

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The bill’s main sponsor is Josh Bonner, R-Fayetteville. Several students spoke at a hearing earlier this year against the bill, arguing it could make it easier for extremist groups to speak on campus. The bill passed along party lines Monday.

Both bills will now go to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.