Would you be willing to gamble on casinos in Georgia to preserve HOPE?

The HOPE Scholarship has become a victim of its own popularity with Georgia families. Increased demand and rising tuition have led the state to reduce the amounts of the award, which used to pay 100 percent of tuition, along with books and fees. Now, funding fluctuates based on available lottery revenues, so HOPE this year pays 82 percent of tuition at Georgia State and 75 percent at the University of Georgia. It no longer pays anything toward books and fees.

When the AJC examined the future of HOPE on its 20th anniversary three years ago, the then president of the Georgia Student Finance Commission told us, “We know HOPE is going to exist, but what it will look like 15 years out is unknown. I understand what parents are thinking. I have a 6- and 9-year-old. All I can tell them is save, save, save.”

Would Georgians approve bringing casinos to the state to create another source of funding for HOPE? Some people want voters to have the opportunity to consider that question.

Writing in the AJC Get Schooled blog today, Tommy Dortch, former state director for U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and chairman emeritus of 100 Black Men of America, Inc., says, “The 2017 Georgia Assembly should act and give voters an opportunity to decide on a solution to funding HOPE. That solution is to allow Georgians to decide for themselves whether destination casino resorts should be allowed in our state. The state of Georgia and metro Atlanta are losing out. Every day, Georgia citizens vote with their wallets when they travel to nearby casinos in Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina.”

The AJC reported this summer on a study that raised doubts about how much new money casino resorts would being to Georgia. The report concluded the majority of visitors would be locals, not tourists, and that spending in casinos could “cannibalize” spending that might have gone to nearby restaurants, museums or concert halls and in turn undercut other state and local tax collections.

To read more about this issue, go to the AJC Get Schooled blog.

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