Atlanta Forward / Another View: Bipartisan teamwork has made bill better

Georgia’s HOPE is the largest merit-based scholarship program in the United States. HOPE is one of our best weapons in the fight against unemployment, because it helps deliver our promise to make education available to as many Georgians as possible.

Last week, the Georgia House passed HB 326, a HOPE reform measure. Our obligation as both legislators and as leaders of our caucus is to balance policy and politics. Gov. Nathan Deal had sufficient majorities to achieve his objectives. However, by supporting the legislation, we were able to insert several key changes that will protect working families and at-risk students.

Technical college students requiring remedial classes will now be able to take them, and those at proprietary schools can continue to receive the Tuition Equalization Grant. Moreover, all students who may face reductions can now access a 1 percent loan program funded at $20 million. These concessions were received in exchange for supporting HB 326.

With a 63-member caucus, the ability of Democrats to impact any legislation is significantly reduced. Our leadership team worked hard to make changes that would ensure there is a HOPE program our state is able to maintain.

Because of our efforts, proprietary college students can be the first generation to attend college. And thousands of students will now be able to access a loan fund to fill gaps caused by the HOPE cuts. And HB 326 remains a work in progress.

We are working hard with colleagues and allies to ensure our concerns are heard and that as many students as possible — those in school and those who hope to attend — will be able to utilize HOPE.

Minimizing the harm across all HOPE recipients is a central goal. We face a critical moment where the future of HOPE is in jeopardy. That’s why protecting the HOPE scholarship for years to come must be everyone’s goal.

Rep. Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, is Georgia House minority leader.

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