In an interview with Channel 2 Action News’s Lori Geary, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced the first bit of good news in some time for the HOPE Scholarship: a proposed 3 percent increase in funds allocated to in-state college for tuition fees.

“We do have the money in the lottery. We are hopeful it will continue to grow. Maybe we can make even better announcements in years to come,” stated the governor.

The program, a pillar of higher education policy in Georgia since it was implemented under former Governor Zell Miller, has recently fallen on hard times. Declining lottery revenues coupled with the continued rise of collegiate enrollment created a fiscal crisis for the scholarship, which originally covered 100 percent of tuition for students meeting its academic qualifications.

The combination led to major changes to the program two years ago, Deal’s first session as governor.

Tuition coverage was dipped by over 10 percent for most students, with those graduating high school with a 3.7 GPA, dubbed ‘Zell Miller Scholars,’ still receiving the full allotment. Those changes, among others, passed the General Assembly with bi-partisan support and were signed by the governor.

Georgia’s Pre-Kindergarten program, also funded by HOPE, had its days slashed from 180 to 160 as part of the cuts. In his evening interview with Geary, Deal declared his intentions to bring the program back to its full 180 days by adding 10 more this year; the other 10 were reinstated during last year’s session.

-Brandon Howell