Gov. Deal signs bill expanding HOPE grant for tech college students

Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation Tuesday establishing a state grant to pay the full tuition for the state’s highest achieving technical college students.

House Bill 697 creates a Zell Miller Grant scholar designation for tech students earning at least a 3.5 grade-point average. This $11 million expansion of the lottery-funded HOPE grant is expected to cover about 20 percent, or 16,000 students, currently enrolled in the Technical College System of Georgia.

“This additional benefit will provide greater access to education, cultivating a highly skilled workforce and helping keep us the No. 1 place in the nation in which to do business,” Deal said.

The legislation is a compromise to the initial proposal by Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna, that would have paid full tuition for about 85,000 tech students already receiving the HOPE grant, which requires at least a 2.0 GPA. That plan would have cost about $30 million a year, according to the Georgia Student Finance Commission, which administers the HOPE program.

The HOPE grant pays about $730 of the $900 that technical college costs each semester, system officials said. The Zell Miller expansion will fund the gap for some students.

Deal also included $5 million in the budget to expand the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant, which pays the full tuition for HOPE grant recipients pursuing high-demand fields. The additional allocation brings the total funding for the program to $11.5 million and will benefit about 12,000 tech students each year.

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