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Both Georgias Need HOPE

Last week was Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly, which is the last day a bill is able to pass either the House or the Senate and still be signed into law this Session. (Cont.)

Last week was Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly, which is the last day a bill is able to pass either the House or the Senate and still be signed into law this Session. It’s a long day, full of many bills to debate, and it’s easy to tell the general tenor of any given years Session by what types of bills are under consideration. Seeing as all the bills legislators were confronted with were social issues thinly disguised as ‘savings to Georgia citizens’, it looks like the Georgia GOP is passing the buck on jobs yet again.

The plain fact is that Georgia, while making tremendous strides over the last half of the 20th century, still has a long way to go in reducing the gap between the “two Georgias”. Our state cannot depend on only Atlanta and Savannah in order to climb out of the economic hole caused by the Great Recession. Importantly, it was with this fact in mind that Governor Zell Miller inaugurated the HOPE Scholarship back in 1993. He knew that giving academically superior students (who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it) the chance to attend college would not only increase the size of Georgia’s technically proficient workforce, making our state more attractive to business, but also reduce the inequalities between the two Georgia’s in the process. However, last year, Governor Deal saw it fit to instead shift the HOPE Scholarship’s focus to ensuring a college education for those who are already assured of becoming a part of Georgia’s educated workforce.

The facts are stark. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has reported that Atlanta suburbs accounted for half of the 10,629 Zell Miller Scholars in Georgia, while some rural counties have none. In 2010, Georgia’s African-American citizens accounted for 30.5 percent of the state’s overall population. There are currently 74,278 students receiving the HOPE Scholarship. Of that number, only 17 percent are African-American. Of the 8,721 students receiving the Zell Miller Scholarship that attend Georgia’s research universities, only 320 are black, which is a mere 3.6 percent. The divisions that the HOPE Scholarship intended to heal are now enforced by it instead.

The HOPE Scholarship was not, and should not be, structured as an entitlement program for wealthy families that can already afford to send their kids to college. Georgia needs to invest in its children for the future, and in order to do that, we need to focus on sending the best and brightest who can’t afford it to our universities. Spending money on children who are already able to afford it means that Georgia’s human capital is going to plateau, not grow, as well as lack the diversity of background that has made America’s economy so innovative in the first place. If the government of Georgia doesn’t make this commitment, then it only shows that it is more interested in pandering to the base that elects it, rather than making a significant pledge to invest in the potential that lies not just in Atlanta’s suburbs, but in all of Georgia.

Reprinted from State Senator Curt Thompson's (D-5th) blog. Also, check the Senator out on Facebook and Twitter.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robert J. Nebel March 12, 2012 at 11:39 PM
I would like to add that the southern rural areas provide tremendous opportunity to strengthen agriculture through technology. This can be achieved by investing in students from those areas to train in the tech sector to make Georgia farming highly competitive. The state ought to invest in medical research and inspire students to engage in its study. It would be tough to see Georgia experience a Brain Drain like we witnessed in my home state of Ohio.
David B. Manley March 13, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I think Robert is on the right track. There should be separate incentives above the HOPE to encourage bright students to obtain degrees in sectors that are underserved and that would help Georgia's economy including tech, engineering, agriculture, computer, teaching, and medical. Further, I am surprised that there are not more private sector scholarships to encourage the brightest students to attend our research universities.  Although I believe the HOPE should primarily be given to the brightest students that do not come from the wealthiest families, tuition for students who can succeed in college is burdensome for most families. Since studies have shown that a better educated workforce attracts jobs and leads to a higher tax base, lower health costs, less crime and more civility, tuition to the state's colleges should be kept low regardless of HOPE. Unfortunately, while a decade ago the state paid 75 percent of the cost of educating a college student, today it only covers 54 percent. Georgia must recognize that investment in its public colleges is a good one that returns monetarily as well as intangibly. 
Jimmy March 14, 2012 at 07:32 PM
The only one pandering to his base is the democrat state senator...the Hope/ Zell Miller Scholarship is awarded based on GPA and standardized test scores...there are no income or ethnic requirements. If there is an ethnic disparity in the recipients of the Hope, maybe you could focus your efforts on improving the scholarship of those less represented instead of trying to play the race card and taking partisan potshots at the GOP.

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