It was nearly unanimous. On Thursday, Democrats and Republicans in the Georgia House united and passed a bill that is expected to significantly increase the number of students able to pay to attend technical college. The House passed a bill that lowers the eligibility requirements for the HOPE Grant.
The bill passed 169 to 1 and will lower the GPA eligibility requirement from a 3.0 to a 2.0 for the grant. If approved by the Senate, the change would return to the requirements that existed before overhauls to the program in 2011. The HOPE Grant is different than the HOPE Scholarship Program. It previously had no GPA requirement.
Democratic Representative Stacey Evans was one of the driving forces behind the bill and told WABE about why she was so strongly in support.
"Most students that attend our technical colleges are from families with household incomes of less than $40,000 and many of them with household incomes of much less than $40,000," said Evans, "so the ability of them to get the grant now even with a 2.8, or a 2.5, or a 2.3, will allow more students to go college and allow them to recognize the dream of being part of the middle class."
The HOPE Grant covers tuition, HOPE-approved mandatory fees, and a book allowance of up to $100 per quarter for the state's technical schools. Full-time enrollment is not required and students are not required to graduate from high school with a specific GPA, however, they were required to have a postsecondary cumulative 3.0 GPA, at certain checkpoints, in order to maintain eligibility, according to GACollege411.org.
Supporters say the change was needed because after the state raised the standards, enrollment at the state's technical colleges went down and large numbers of technical college students began dropping out.
Evans and other House Democrats had been pushing for the bill for several years, but this year they were able to team up with Governor Deal and House Republican leaders to get it passed.