Bipartisanship — And Georgia’s tech students are the winners
February 17, 2013 12:12 AM | 1332 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bipartisan agreement is a rare thing in U.S. and Georgia politics these days, so it was a welcome development last week when Republican Gov. Nathan Deal announced that he would back a proposal by Democratic state Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna to lower the grade-point-average requirement for the HOPE Grant scholarships to students in Georgia’s technical colleges.

The change would require students to maintain a 2.0 GPA in order to be eligible for the grants. State legislators had raised the threshold to 3.0 from 2.0 back in 2011 due to concerns that the lottery-funded grant program was going broke. Evans brought forward her proposal after hearing complaints that many students were dropping out, or not enrolling at all, due to the higher standard.

Around 42,000 HOPE Grant recipients left school after the GPA hike in 2011, according to Evans.

The HOPE grants are not to be confused with the state’s HOPE Scholarships, which go to students at the state’s four-year colleges and universities.

The lower GPA requirement is expected to cost the state between $5 million and $8 million annually — a comparative pittance when one considers the myriad benefits to the state from a better-educated, more capable workforce. Not only does it make the state more attractive to potential employers, and not only does it help fulfill young people’s dreams and hopes, it means bigger paychecks for those who complete their schooling. And those bigger paychecks, in turn, eventually lead to higher tax revenues to the state over those workers’ lifetimes. So yes, this is a change that will eventually pay for itself.

“I believe this additional benefit will help Georgia families trying to get ahead and will boost the state’s ability to attract and fill high-skilled jobs,” Deal said last week.

And Evans noted that most tech college students have household incomes of less than $40,000 per year.

“So any little bit of changes in financial aid to them can be the difference between them staying in school and not staying in school,” she said.

The modus operandi for decades and more in the state Capitol has been for the party in power (the Democrats until recently) to rule with an iron fist. And on occasions when the party out of power (the Republicans until recently) presented a “good” idea, rather than getting behind it, the party in power would have one of its legislators present a copycat bill that would be passed instead so the party out of power got no credit.

Gov. Deal is to be commended for helping break that mold.

“I certainly appreciate the governor doing it and not just looking at the idea because it came from a Democrat and saying ‘no,’” Evans said.

Deal’s decision was a welcome change from what has been business as usual. But the big winners are not the governor and Rep. Evans, but the tech students of our state.

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