“That’s my intention. I think that the (Georgia) Legislature saw the value in that, too,” Kemp told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I know when I’ve mentioned that out and about around the state, kind of after the session wrapped up, we were getting great feedback on that from people. People know ... how important that is. I feel really good about where we are there. It makes a big impact on Georgia families and students.”
The Georgia House initially voted for a version of the budget that rejected Kemp’s proposal to fund the HOPE scholarship at 100% of tuition, instead funding it at 90% to 95% of tuition. State lawmakers eventually approved a spending plan that provided nearly $47 million more for scholarship programs at public colleges, a move Kemp has said restores HOPE to its “full promise.”
Not all lottery profits, however, go toward funding HOPE scholarships and pre-K. As of 2022, the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute reported that there were $1.1 billion in lottery profits sitting in unrestricted reserves, a pool of surplus funding that is not subject to legal obligation or commitment. That same year, approximately $772 million was held in protected reserves should there be a shortage of funding for HOPE and pre-K programs.
Critics have argued that the unrestricted reserves should be used to fund educational resources. Since being elected in 2010, state Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Atlanta, has sought to redirect the surplus funding.
“I think that if more citizens realized this money is literally just sitting in an account, I think it would make them sick. Georgia never approved a lottery just for the sake of having a lottery, they did it to support education,” Evans, who was a HOPE scholar herself, said in an interview. “It’s such a waste, in my opinion, that it just sits there, and I think it’s also a broken promise to the people of Georgia.”
When asked about allocating the unrestricted reserve funds, Kemp said while he is “open to having those conversations,” he is committed to maintaining hefty reserves to preserve the scholarship and pre-K funding.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how lottery revenues hold up with the economic environment that we’re in and potentially could be going into,” he said. “So those will be things that we continue to monitor.”
BY THE NUMBERS
$26.5 billion — How much the Georgia Lottery has contributed to state educational programs.
2.1 million — How many Georgia students have received the HOPE Scholarship.
2 million - How many Georgians have attended pre-K.
$1.1 billion — Georgia Lottery profits in unrestricted reserves.
3.0 — The grade-point average needed to qualify for and maintain the HOPE Scholarship.
Sources: Georgia Lottery, Georgia Budget & Policy Institute