Originally created 12/23/01

Program will mirror Georgia's HOPE



If not for the Georgia lottery, Lashauna Wesbey would be saddled with a $10,000 debt after four years of college.

The parents of the future nurse would not be able to pay for their daughter to go to college, so she would have to apply for student loans.

Since the Georgia lottery began eight years ago, students such as Lashauna have been given another option. The A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet High School senior will be attending the State University of West Georgia in Carrollton next fall on Georgia's HOPE scholarship.

HOPE, which stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally, pays the full cost of tuition, fees and books for high school graduates who attend a Georgia public college or university and who maintain a B or higher grade-point average. The program offers a $3,000 stipend for students who wish to attend a private institution within the state.

South Carolina lawmakers want to make their state's version of the HOPE scholarship as successful as Georgia's with the money generated from their lottery, which starts Jan. 7.

Since Georgia's HOPE program began in 1993, the number of eligible high school graduates has grown rapidly and the average SAT scores and high school GPAs have increased for college-bound seniors.

The goal of the program has been reached. According to a 1999 evaluation, fewer students are attending out-of-state colleges.

South Carolina is hoping to end its own brain drain when its new lottery begins to fund similar college scholarship programs.

South Carolina already offers the LIFE Scholarship, which gives eligible students $3,000 a year. Students must have a 3.0 grade point average and an SAT score of 1,050. Students continue to receive the money if they maintain their grade point average.

With the lottery, the state is proposing to increase the amount to cover full tuition. Currently two semesters at the University of South Carolina Aiken cost $3,638.

The requirements for the LIFE scholarship will increase in fall 2002.

Students must make at least 1,100 on the SAT and graduate in the top 30 percent of their class. The scholarship would cover full tuition at public colleges and universities. Private school students would receive the average public school tuition costs.

An estimated 16,000 South Carolina students received about $23.4 million in LIFE scholarships in 2000. The program, created in 1998, is financed by the state's general fund.

But because of the unknowns surrounding the dispersal of lottery money, higher education officials are telling students to be careful when planning.

"The first week in January will tell us a lot," said Glenn Shumpert,the director of financial aid at the University of South Carolina Aiken. The debate on how to parcel the lottery money begins Jan. 8.

Whatever happens in the legislature, admissions officials say the reality is most students will not benefit from lottery scholarships.

That's because students who receive Pell Grants - the federal scholarships that don't have to be repaid - will not be eligible for lottery dollars. The same thing happened when HOPE began in Georgia, but the state ended that requirement two years ago.

About one-third of students at USC Aiken receive Pell grants, which can go up to $3,300, Mr. Shumpert said.

The picture is bleaker at technical colleges, where the percentage of students on Pell Grants is dramatically higher. Those students will not receive lottery money, which has been proposed to pay for all of their tuition.

Mr. Shumpert said most prospective students and their parents don't know the reality that Pell Grant recipients will not be eligible.

"Our neediest students won't receive a windfall," he said.