The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia on November 11, 2003 · A14
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The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia · A14

Atlanta, Georgia
Issue Date:
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
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MAIN1111-A-A M@14 -Composite Proof 11/10/03 0:55 0:00 founder of HOPE, was clear about how the money should be spent. In a newspaper column Miller wrote a few weeks before voters went to the polls to decide the lottery’s fate, he said the money would pay for the HOPE scholarship for students from families with incomes below $66,000, pre-kindergarten classes and “computers and science equipment in schools that otherwise could not afford them.” With limits on who could get HOPE and pre-k funds, and lottery revenue exceeding expectations, the technology category caught most of the overflow. The money also went to museums in Augusta and Warner Robins. It paid to renovate historic buildings in Milledgeville and to build a $50 million state-of-the-art public broadcasting and telecommunications complex in Atlanta for GPTV. Such spending angers some lawmakers worried about the financial viability of the HOPE scholarship. “I don’t think there is a soul out there who would have voted for the lottery if they thought it was going to go for more government buildings,” said Rep. Ben Harbin (R-Martinez), a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “If the HOPE scholarship is in trouble because we built things like GPTV, we should ask for the money back.” And lottery money is still being spent for scholarships that were not part of the original HOPE program, some of them pushed by lawmakers with connections to the private schools that are benefiting. For instance, a program started in 1997 will spend about $760,000 this year on engineering scholarships at private Mercer University. House Speaker Terry Coleman (D- Eastman), who served as House budget chairman until taking the speaker job in January, was a longtime member of Mercer’s medical school board and has been one of the university’s political patrons in Atlanta. The school’s president, Kirby Godsey, is a major donor to state political candidates. Another scholarship, started in 1994, provides a free ride to Georgia Military College in Milledgeville for students who are nominated by their local legislators and have at least a 2.5 grade point average and an 800 on the SAT. The program, scheduled to cost about $770,000 this year, is a favorite of legislators, including House Motor Vehicles Committee Chairman Bobby Parham, who represents Milledgeville. Such add-on scholarship programs have cost about $63 million since the start of the HOPE program and are budgeted for another $13.5 million this year. But even some commission members studying ways to get HOPE expenses under control are skeptical about cutting off the special programs. “It looks to me like they should be easy to get rid of,” said Rep. Mack Crawford (R-Zebulon). “It may be they are sacred cows, they are just off the table.” Officials began shutting off the lottery spigot for non-HOPE and pre-k projects in 2001, but by then, almost a third of the lottery proceeds designated for education had gone to technology, construction and other projects that broadly fit under the state lottery law. Sen. George Hooks (D-Americus) was the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman when the cash ➤ Continued from A1 ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Photos by RENEE’ HANNANS / Staff Legislators budgeted $50 million for the Georgia Public Broadcasting building, which features a three-story, skylight atrium. “I always thought we overspent” on the facility, said Rep. Larry Walker (D-Perry). Projects: Spending spree angers officials __________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ➤ Continued on next page HOLDING ON TO HOPE A special report on challenges facing Georgia’s popular scholarship program after a decade of growth ➤ The state HOPE commission will hold its final meeting Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the state Capitol, Room 403. The meeting is open to the public. ➤ For more information on the commission, you can check out its Web site, sponsored by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia: COMMISSION MEETING Here are a few of the things the state spent lottery money on besides the HOPE scholarship and pre-kindergarten classes: ➤ More than $60 million for equipment, scholars, researchers and other costs for projects of the Georgia Research Alliance, a private, nonprofit research corporation that works with businesses and universities. ➤ About $50 million for the Georgia Public Broadcasting and Georgia Centers for Advanced Telecommunications Technology buildings on 14th Street. ➤ $24 million for school safety grants, funding things like security fences and metal detectors. ➤ $13 million to help rebuild Albany State University, which was damaged by flooding in the mid-1990s. ➤ $12.5 million for an interactive science museum in Augusta. ➤ About $5 million to help renovate the old state Capitol in Milledgeville. ➤ $3.2 million for Internet portals and infrastructure at the University of Georgia School of Law in fiscal 2001. ➤ About $1.5 million for the Next Generation School Project, which was developed by an education group started by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Economic Developers Association. The money goes to select schools that have designed improvement programs. ➤ $375,000 for forest research equipment. Source: State budgets, Office of Planning and Budget WHERE DID THE FUNDS FROM THE LOTTERY GO? RMAIN1111OA14FMAIN1111OA14 4 Star 14A 14A RR RR *CNZ11OA014CY* *CNZ11OA014CY* *CNZ11OA014MA* *CNZ11OA014MA* *CNZ11OA014YE* *CNZ11OA014YE* *CNZ11OA014KB* *CNZ11OA014KB* BlueRedYellowBlack Blue RedYellowBlack A14 Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2003 / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 4 By MATT KEMPNER and ANDREA JONES Georgia’s HOPE scholarship goes to lots of kids who don’t need it. More than 90 percent of HOPE scholars would go to college even without the award, University of Georgia researchers say. And many who get the money come from families wealthier than the state average, according to a review by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But that’s not the image that the public has of HOPE. Nine out of 10 Georgians believe HOPE has been somewhat or very effective in helping people attend college who otherwise couldn’t afford to go, according to a recent poll by the AJC and Zogby America. Throughout the University System, three-quarters of HOPE scholars come from families who either have incomes too high to qualify for the federal government’s need-based aid program or who don’t bother to apply for it, data for the 2000-2001 school year show. At Georgia Southern University, parents of about 70 percent of the 4,757 HOPE scholars at the school made more than the average Georgia family’s income of $41,707, according to records for 1999-2000, the last time the university required all HOPE students to report income data. In fact, HOPE went to 46 Georgia Southern students whose parents earned more than $250,000 a year, averaging $453,000. UGA economics professors Chris Cornwell and David Mustard compared college enrollment rates in Southeastern states and concluded that less than 10 percent of HOPE money goes to students who would otherwise not have gone to college. The program isn’t generating many new collegegoers, said Cornwell, who has authored several studies and papers on HOPE. Instead, the scholarship has simply persuaded more students to stay in the state for college, Cornwell said. “HOPE has been about moving kids around,” he said. Cornwell said that’s in part because HOPE’s B average requirement limits it to students likely to go to college anyway. He said some studies suggest programs that reach students in early childhood have a greater impact on their education. Georgia’s lottery- funded pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds is ultimately expected to improve the college attendance rate. HOPE supporters say the scholarship program has had other successes. It is credited with pumping up SAT scores of incoming freshmen and raising admission standards at Georgia’s public colleges. Gary Henry, a Georgia State University researcher who also studies HOPE, said a change made in the program three years ago is likely to increase the percentage of Georgians who go to college. Before 2000, students who qualified for federal Pell Grants — which are based on financial need — couldn’t receive HOPE. With that rule removed, it should be easier for low-income students to go to college, Henry said. Some students do say HOPE has helped them make it to college. Sly Colquitt, a 27-year-old bouncer at a bar near Georgia Southern, graduated from the university two years ago. His parents never went beyond high school and mostly worked factory jobs. They contributed all they could to his college education: $600 for his five years in school, said Colquitt, who is from Columbus. “If I didn’t have HOPE at least that first year, I wouldn’t have been in college,” he said. But dozens of current students interviewed at five public colleges and universities in Georgia said they would have gone to college even without HOPE. They say HOPE has made their lives easier in other ways. Some said savings from the scholarship have helped them avoid having to work a part-time job or live at home during college. Others said HOPE has limited the college loans they needed. And some of the money that families save on tuition is going to buy cars, say researchers Cornwell and Mustard, who have tied increases in car registrations to the amount of HOPE money distributed. For UGA senior Robin Abramson, who transferred from the University of Tennessee last year, the savings her parents got from HOPE and the fact that she’s now attending school in the state means she’s been able to afford an off-campus apartment and a car. Jim Chambers, the owner of Dingus MaGee’s, a bar across from Georgia Southern, said he knows where the money scholars save ends up. “It’s going in here,” Chambers said, pointing to his cash register. “It’s going into Wal-Mart. There are lots of SUVs, Tahoes, BMWs and Lexuses.” Jim Chambers , owner of Dingus MaGee’s, a bar near Georgia Southern, says the money HOPE scholars and their parents save in tuition is going in his cash register and toward buying “SUVs, Tahoes, BMWs and Lexuses.” College is already affordable, likely for most recipients Photos by RENEE’ HANNANS / Staff Sports cars and SUVs are often seen going in and out of the Georgia Southern University entrance in Statesboro. Some of the money HOPE scholars and their families save in tuition is going to buy cars, researchers say. COSTS OF NOT TAKING HOPE University of Georgia 0 UNC-Chapel Hill $15,920 Georgia Southern 0 Florida State University $13,888 Georgia Tech 0 Carnegie Mellon (Pa.) $29,595 By staying in state, HOPE scholars are saving much more than just tuition and fees at Georgia colleges. They’re also avoiding steeper tuition prices at out-of-state universities. Here’s a look at what HOPE scholars would pay for a year of tuition and fees at some schools:

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