Georgia Scholarship Terminated

By Staff

April 30, 2009

A four-year scholarship program designed to draw top Georgia students to state schools has been eliminated.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Governor's Scholarship Program, which awarded about 1,500 scholarships to valedictorians and top students, was cut from the state budget early this month. Most students eligible for the scholarship received $900 annually, which helped pay for room and board. Recipients were also granted the state's HOPE scholarship-eligible to students who maintain a 3.0 grade point average--which covered tuition and books.

State government officials explained that the scholarship's cancellation was the result of the economic turndown, decrease in state revenue and $2 million budget deficit the state faces.

"The scholarship was created before HOPE," explained Chris Schrimpf, Gov. Sonny Perdue's press secretary, who was quoted in The Red and Black, the University of Georgia 's student publication, "and students who received the Governor's also had HOPE. Since maintaining the HOPE is a strong commitment of the state's, other steps were taken to help lessen the weak economy's impact on Georgians as much as possible."

The Telegraph in Macon, Georgia, reports that students responded to the news with shock and disappointment.

"I worked very hard all through high school to get it, and there's not too many things out there to reward top students," said Lauren Fuller, whose tuition at Mercer University is more than the HOPE scholarship covers. "Usually, I used the scholarship for books. With Mercer tuition going up $841, I'm getting hit with two things."

But Tim Connell, president of the Georgia Student Finance Commission, questioned whether the scholarship was achieving its goal of enticing students to remain in Georgia. He noted that when top students attended an annual ceremony at the Governor's Mansion, about 40 percent said they would be attending schools out of state.

"It kind of brought into question what was the purpose of the scholarship," Connell told the Journal-Constitution. "Nine hundred dollars is probably not having a significant effect on decision making. It's not enough to say, 'Instead of going to Harvard or going to Vanderbilt or going to Duke, I am going to the University of Georgia.' It's probably become more of an 'attaboy' for valedictorians."

But Jordan Tompkins, a freshman at the University of Georgia, told The Red and Black that students were depending on the funds.

"When I sat down to add up my scholarship money to make sure I had enough for the next four years, I didn't consider that the funds just wouldn't be there," he said. "I depended on that money to help with housing because HOPE doesn't cover everything."

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