More students will be able to attend the state’s technical colleges now that Gov. Nathan Deal has signed legislation to lower grade requirements for the HOPE grant program.
Deal signed the bill during a Wednesday event at the Technical College System of Georgia’s annual leadership summit in Atlanta.
Deal said the bill works to strengthen the state’s workforce.
“We need more college or technical college degrees in order to attract and fill the jobs of tomorrow,” Deal said in a press release. “This additional benefit will provide Georgians with greater access to school at a relatively small cost to the state.”
The bill returns the qualifying grade point average to 2.0 after it was raised to 3.0 two years ago because of budgetary concerns. In the years since, there was a notable decline in enrollment.
“In recent years, Georgia has seen a large drop in technical college enrollment, much larger than in our University System,” Deal said. “For some students enrolled in a technical school, the loss of scholarship money put higher education out of reach. This law will provide greater access to school and to a brighter career for thousands of Georgians.”
The governor’s office said recent growth in lottery revenues, which fund the program, will cover the additional $5 million to $8 million cost. Revenue deposits from lottery sales were up $32 million in the first six months of this fiscal year, a 7.6 percent increase over the same period the year before.
David Parrish, director of marketing and public relations at Lanier Technical College, wrote in an email to The Times that the college is pleased with the bill because of the access to higher education and job skills it will provide.
Parrish said the lower GPA requirement will not change the school’s high-quality instruction or curriculum but will offer more opportunities to students. He said the college does expect to see some increase in enrollment, which will bolster the local workforce.
“Our area’s workforce will have even more access to higher education and job-ready workforce skills,” Parrish said. “This will help to attract new business to the area and to increase the competitiveness of existing businesses. This will help the area’s workforce to have more career options.”
Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Clark released a statement in which he praised legislators for supporting the bill.
“One of the most critical keys to business success, and therefore job creation and investment, is the creation of a 21st century workforce that is prepared for today’s jobs and a sustainable pipeline that can provide companies the human capital they need for decades to come,” Clark said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report