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HOPE overhaul bill gets final OK from legislature
Bill only needs governor's signature
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An overhaul of the cash-strapped HOPE scholarship is headed to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.

The House on Thursday voted 136-32 to give final passage to the bill, including Hall County representatives Doug Collins, Carl Rogers and James Mills.

Members passed the original version March 1 but voted again after the Senate added several changes.

"I think the process worked. The governor showed great leadership, and we had a lot of input on both sides of the House and Senate," said Collins, R-Gainesville, who carried the bill as Deal's floor leader. "We put together a package that not only helps HOPE now but also for the future."

Under the new plan for HOPE, students with a grade point average of 3.7 and at least a math and verbal SAT score of 1200 or 26 ACT score will be considered Zell Miller Scholars and will receive full tuition.

Georgia students with a 3.0 GPA will now have 90 percent of tuition covered.

The Senate amendment gives a full ride to valedictorians and salutatorians at each Georgia high school.

"I worked with the Senate and the governor's office, so we knew that was coming, and it's a good change," Collins said Thursday afternoon. "It's a good day for HOPE and a good day for Georgia, which remains in the top of states that take an interest and financial stake in the higher education of its citizens."

The bill also eliminates payments for books, fees and remedial classes.

Awards are set each year by the General Assembly rather than being tied to tuition rates.

House lawmakers applauded after the vote as one of the biggest issues the state legislature will tackle this session.

The lottery-funded scholarship program had been set to go broke due to rising college tuition and skyrocketing enrollment.

Deal proposed the HOPE overhaul and is expected to sign the measure next week.

Staff writer Carolyn Crist contributed to this report.


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