College scholarships for some of Georgia's highest-achieving
students have been reduced, thanks to the budget-cutting ordered last
year by then-Gov. Roy E. Barnes, a Democrat.
Now another Democrat, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, is trying to get funding for the programs restored in the fiscal 2004 budget.
Whether he'll find a lot of support for his position is questionable, however, considering that, in the wake of the November elections, Democrats no longer control the state Senate, and Republican Sonny Perdue now sits in the governor's office.
In a Dec. 31 letter to the Georgia Student Finance Commission, the state agency that administers a variety of scholarship programs, Mr. Taylor wrote: "To say that I was disappointed about actions taken to reduce student scholarship awards due to proposed budget cuts is an understatement."
He added that the cuts "must be directed to other areas to ensure that current and future higher education students benefit from these scholarships."
For example, payments from the Governor's Scholarship program, which awards grants to more than 2,000 high school valedictorians, salutatorians, and other top-performing students who attend state colleges and universities, have dropped from $788 in the fall semester to $552 for the spring.
Other programs experiencing cuts include the Tuition Equalization Grants, which are awarded to students who are attending private colleges in the state; the Leveraging Education Assistance Partnership, which goes to disadvantaged students; and a scholarship program that is for children of law-enforcement personnel who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty.
The budget cuts do not affect the state's popular HOPE Scholarship program, which is supported by lottery proceeds.
Officials from the financing agency said that because they don't use state money for administrative costs, they had no choice but to take the cuts from the scholarships themselves. In addition, the legislature did not allocate enough money for all the eligible students in the first place in fiscal 2003, according to the commission.
In his 2003 supplemental budget and his fiscal 2004 budget, Gov. Perdue is not recommending restoring the cuts. But officials from his budget office said that most of the students affected also receive the HOPE awards and other scholarships.
Vol. 22, Issue 20, Page 15