The HOPE Scholarship is the legacy of former governor and senator Zell Miller. HOPE pays for most, but not all, of the costs of public college for students with a 3.0 GPA. The related Zell Miller scholarship gives a full ride to school valedictorians and salutatorians.
The scholarship is funded by proceeds from the state lottery in Georgia. The lottery revenue has declined, so Republicans in Georgia, funded by casino lobbyists, have said they need to bring in casino revenue to save the HOPE scholarship.
But there’s a problem. Here is the legislation and it actually undermines the HOPE scholarship in favor of a new means-tested program for families making less than the Georgia median household income, which is about $58,000.00.
HOPE and the Zell Miller scholarship were based on the student’s own academic merit. The House GOP’s new plan would make it about the parents’ income.
If you read the House’s own legislation, you’ll find on page three of the bill that the casino revenue, horse track betting revenue, and sports betting revenue that is generated in casinos, will go to a new slush fund controlled by the legislature and also to a new opportunity fund and the state’s general fund. The opportunity fund is the new means-tested program that will compete with HOPE.
Now, it only takes common sense to understand that many of the people buying lottery tickets will go to the casino and not buy the lottery tickets. That will cause a decrease in the lottery revenue. Just about every state that has introduced casinos has seen this decrease. Georgia will be no different.
The legislation specifies that the casino money will go to this new program, not HOPE. The net result will be a lottery with decreased proceeds for HOPE, which will put a strain on the scholarship program. Remember, the Republicans said Georgia needed casinos to fund HOPE. Now they’re going to deprive HOPE of money through their legislation.
The legislators who support this counter that sports betting not conducted in a casino will see revenue go to the lottery, which will benefit HOPE. The problem is they cannot be sure how much will be done outside casinos. The additional problem is that casinos consistently show a decline in revenue for lotteries. So, in effect, the sports betting outside casinos will offset casino losses, not actually add additional revenue to the lottery.
The long term impact on HOPE will be devastating, pushing more funding to a means-tested program and away from rewarding all students for their academic success.
The irony here is that if they just fully funded HOPE with all the gambling revenue, there’d be no need for a means-tested competitor to HOPE. All students with a 3.0 GPA regardless of their parents’ income would benefit.
If the GOP goes down this road, they will kill themselves in the suburbs.