Albany Tech has plans for HOPE grant cuts

Changes to the HOPE grant requirements will affect 20 percent of Albany Technical College students

HOPE scholarship and grants have been helping college students since 1993.

"I originally got the grant when I got my GED through Albany Tech they gave me a voucher for the HOPE grant," says Thomas Schook Jr., an Albany Technical College student in the Automotive Technology program. "It kept me from having to pay out of pocket. It comes in handy."

Governor Nathan Deal recently signed a law changing the requirements for those receiving a HOPE scholarship or grant. The changes come as a part of his plan to cut $300 million in spending through lottery-funded programs that are predicted to go broke by next year.

"There's obviously going to be less financial aid available for students with the changes but our job is to help those 20 percent or so of our students who may lose HOPE financial aid adjust to that loss." says Albany Technical College President Dr. Anthony Parker.

New HOPE grants requirements say students at technical colleges must earn a 3.0 GPA. This leaves approximately 20 percent of Albany Tech students wondering if they'll have the HOPE grant in the fall.

"Some of those students have 2.5, 2.6, 2.7 and above, so at some point they may be able to reacquire their financial aid by working a little harder to get it," says Parker.

"It just means they're going to have to actually apply themselves and do the work. Of course, if you aren't applying yourself and doing the work, you don't deserve the help anyway," says Schook.

"It's pretty much a B. You've got to have that at least if you don't you're pretty much just skimming by on the minimum requirements," says Donald Hancock, a new Albany Tech student studying Diesel Mechanics.

For those who may lose their HOPE grant because of the new changes to the program, Albany Tech is not leaving their students high and dry. Parker says students will receive help through Pell Grants, the school's work study program and Stafford Loans.

"Most of our students are not in certificate programs; they're in diploma or degree programs where if they're eligible for Pell, Pell pays. We participate in the Stafford Loan program. Students who need loans -- we don't want to encourage students to take loans if they don't need them -- can get a loan to help them attend school," says Parker.

He also says the college is extending their shortened summer semester to a full ten weeks to give students a chance to catch up.

"We're going to run a full summer term this year so we can graduate as many students before the transition to the new HOPE requirements," says Parker.

Parker says he is not concerned the new requirements will decrease their admissions. In fact, despite news of the new HOPE requirements, at Monday's registration day, things weren't slowing down.

"We've got a plan in place for growth. There's no guarantee that we will but when you've got a good team that's working on that, they've been working to address these issues for a few months now," says Parker.

He says he wants to make sure the school doesn't lose students and students don't lose their opportunity for education.

"We want them to continue to stay in school, and work toward that diploma or degree, and graduate so they can go to work," says Parker.

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