Deal backs effort to expand access to tech schools

Legislation combines 2.0 requirement for HOPE Grant with plan to increase the number of graduates

By Rachel Shirey


McDONOUGH — Gov. Nathan Deal recently unveiled a proposal to lower GPA requirements for the HOPE Grant to allow more students access to state funds for technical schools.

The HOPE Grant is given to students in the technical college system, including two programs at Clayton State University.

“The HOPE Grant is for students who are in a one-year certificate program, or diploma program, and it’s going to affect mostly technical schools,” said Pat Barton, financial aid director at Clayton State. “We do have at Clayton State, two programs that fall under that, so we do have two certificate programs.”

By expanding access to the HOPE Grant, the governor and legislators aim to strengthen the state’s workforce development efforts.

“After talking with many members of the General Assembly and crunching the numbers at our budget office, I’m glad to report that we’ll be able to lower the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant back to 2.0 after raising it to 3.0 for budgetary reasons two years ago,” Deal said.

“With an estimated cost between $5 million and $8 million, we believe this will provide greater access to school – and access to a brighter career – at a relatively small cost to the state,” Deal later added.

State law requires a GPA of 3.0 to obtain the HOPE Grant for technical schools. The change to a 2.0 GPA will require legislative action for implementation.

“For the county as a whole, and for the high school students, I do think it could have a very positive affect because a lot of students that come out of high school really do want to pursue those career-oriented certificate programs, and I think it would open the door to many more of them,” Barton said. “I really think it could be very positive for the county and for the state, and especially our technical schools.”

Since the needed HOPE reforms were implemented when Deal first took office, there has been a decline in enrollment in the technical school system and in the university system. But the state has seen a disproportionate drop in the technical school system.

For some technical students enrolled in the system, the loss of scholarship money put higher education out of reach. This new bipartisan effort is one way Deal’s office said it intends to remedy the problem.

The state is able to expand funds for the HOPE Grants because of recent growth in Lottery revenues. In the first six months of this fiscal year, deposits were up $32 million, a 7.6 percent increase over the same period the year before.

“Increasing the numbers of grant recipients does no one any good if the student doesn’t finish with a degree,” said Deal. “Put simply, we need more Georgians with college or technical school degrees in order to attract the jobs of tomorrow to our state.”

Deal previously announced that his recommended budget for fiscal year 2014 includes 10 extra days for Pre-K, which restores the full 180-day school year, and a 3 percent increase for HOPE recipients.