Three Ways Georgia Lawmakers Can Make College More Affordable in 2020

Soon more than 60 percent of Georgia jobs will require some postsecondary education, but this goal is out of reach for too many Georgians due to financial roadblocks. Georgia led the nation on student financial aid and college access with the HOPE scholarship more than 25 years ago. However, the economy has changed, and students who previously may not have continued their education past high school now enroll in college in high numbers. These shifts require new approaches to produce a more educated workforce. In 2019, the Governor and state lawmakers bolstered HOPE’s legacy by passing into law a measure that extends student eligibility for HOPE up to 10 years after high school graduation. Here are three policy areas that lawmakers could strengthen this year.

1. Fund Dual Enrollment opportunities to keep opportunities available to students

Dual Enrollment is an opportunity to prepare students for success in both high school and college, especially in rural areas. In fact, in the most rural Georgia counties, one in four high school students participate. Additionally, a cost-benefit analysis of Dual Enrollment in Texas found that, due to the shortened time to a college degree, higher graduation rates and increased earnings and tax revenues, its benefits were more than five times the costs. Adequate funding of Dual Enrollment helps more students get to and through their chosen higher education paths and career goals, whether at a technical college, or public or private college or university. (For more, read “Dual Enrollment Requires Sustainable Funding to Promote High School and College Success.”)

2. Convert $26 million in lottery-funded student loans to scholarships for students who can’t afford college.

Georgia has led the nation on student financial aid for over 25 years with the HOPE Scholarship, but every year, $26 million in lottery funds goes to student loans, not to scholarships. Every semester colleges are forced to drop thousands of students from classes because they can’t pay tuition bills. Georgia cannot afford to leave these students behind. Lawmakers can fund the state’s first need-based scholarships for technical colleges, the university system and private colleges with existing dollars by converting the $26 million in lottery funds now used for student loans. Georgia can build the strong workforce it needs by ensuring that students’ graduation rests on their hard work and not their family’s economic situation. (For more, read “Georgia’s Lottery: ‘Reserving’ a Big Prize for Education.”)

3. Support parents pursuing a bachelor’s degree through state-funded child care scholarships.

Many parents across Georgia without college degrees want to return to school and continue their education to pursue better opportunities for their families. College students in technical or two-year programs can take advantage of state-funded Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) child care scholarships, but enrollment in a four-year degree program means losing this support. Allowing current CAPS scholarship recipients to transition to a four-year program without penalty supports more student-parents in following their ambition for themselves and their families’ futures. (For more, read “A Two-Generation Approach: Solutions to Support Student Parents and Their Children.”)

Georgia can be a more prosperous state by helping more people complete their postsecondary degrees and credentials. Building on recent progress, we can leverage all of Georgia’s talent, help individuals meet their potential and strengthen the workforce to meet current and future demands.

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