By ALEXANDRA SMITH
Students found out this past Monday that the Georgia House Appropriation Higher Education Subcommittee has voted to cut the Tuition Equalization Grant annual award for HOPE-qualified students going to independent colleges from $700 to $500, a 28.5% decrease.
According to an email sent to students from President Mellichamp, “the announcement, which obviously has the blessing of House leaders, comes without any forewarning. Dr. Susanna Baxter and Georgia Independent Colleges Association policy consultant Jet Toney heard the news during the hearing and have begun meeting with budget writers and representatives of the Georgia Student Finance Commission. GSFC was also surprised by this proposed $6 million cut in TEG funding for FY 2014.”
Along with the TEG funding on the table, the State House also voted to lower the HOPE minimum GPA for technical schools from a 3.0 to a 2.0.
According to the Associated Press, many supporters of the grant say the increase in Georgia lottery revenues have allowed for the change back to the 2.0 GPA qualification. That will allow several thousand students to continue the benefits at an estimated cost of $5 million to $8 million annually.
Sophomore Hailey Polsosaid, “I wrote to them about how the reduction hurts students who want to get an education because we’re already paying so much and now we’re gonna be asked to pay more? I don’t think it’s fair to us as students because it could possibly be a setback to our education and seeking our goals.”
Students were asked to sign a letter online and to call their representatives to express how the bill would hurt students that receive the funding.
Financial Aid was not able to meet for an interview for further information about how or if they would be able to award more aid to make up for the deficit.
Kenneth Hearn, a freshman, said “I personally believe that there are other areas of the budget that could be cut. Our educational system already receives critically low funding. Education is the key to success for our country as a whole and by cutting funding for students, we are limiting the amount of people that can afford college. Although it may only be $300 a year, over 4 years that’s $1,200 and student debt is already at an all time high and this will further increase the problem.”
The Tuition Equalization Grant is a non-need based grant with the purpose of encouraging Georgia residents to attend eligible private colleges in Georgia by providing grant assistance.