Change in HOPE eligibility harms minority students

(Editor's note: Fewer students are expected to qualify for Georgia HOPE college scholarships because of a change in eligibility requirements. Previously, students could qualify for HOPE if they had either a 3.0 grade-point average or an 80 numerical average. Now, the numerical average requirement has been scrapped, which is expected to reduce the number of eligible students by an estimated 30 percent.)

When I read in The Augusta Chronicle some time ago that the state of Georgia's HOPE scholarship program had been revised to save money, I became irritated and flabbergasted from reading such melancholy news. It was utterly insulting and disgusting for me to have read such nonsense.

THEN-GEORGIA Gov. Zell Miller proposed the HOPE program for the sole purpose of helping many of Georgia's less-fortunate high school students. It was his intention to open doors of educational opportunities. So far, this scholarship program has allowed thousands high school students of color to enter colleges and universities. They likely would never have had this opportunity if it weren't for this program.

I find it reprehensible that Georgia state legislators had succumbed to their political theatrics to put students of color at a disadvantage by revising an extraordinary and productive scholarship program. This just doesn't make sense to me. What were these twisted politicians thinking?

Several years ago, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution conducted an extensive and comprehensive investigation, detailing who spent the most money on the Georgia lottery. It was discovered in this report that the less-fortunate people of color were the backbone for the Georgia lottery being a major, profitable success. It was revealed that if these individuals of color were to stop playing the lottery, this great moneymaking cash cow would collapse.

Individuals of color were spending an average of $8 per person. In comparison, the more affluent who are not people of color spent an average of $2 per person. Obviously, this was a big discrepancy of lottery spending between the haves and have-nots. In essence, this lottery extravaganza has been most beneficial for Georgia's elitists, whose sons and daughters have reaped immense financial benefits from them only investing pennies. What's wrong with this picture?

Also, it was revealed in the news article that many of these elitist parents of color were telling their college-bound sons and daughters to stay in Georgia to attend college and not go out of state. To get many of these students to stay in Georgia, their parents purchased new SUVs and rented luxury off-campus apartments and condominiums to entice their children to attend Georgia schools.

ON THE OTHER hand, the less-fortunate students of color benefited far less from the HOPE scholarship dollars in comparison to the huge amount of dollars their parents were spending in supporting the lottery. Simply speaking, this was economic exploitation of people of color at its best. To paraphrase the late and great Malcolm X, once again Georgians of color had been used, hoodwinked and bamboozled once again.

Is this exploitation of people of color ever going to stop? I don't think so. Therefore, it's time for people of color to start using America's capitalist system to their advantage and stop letting this system use them. I'm highly distressed by the fact that Georgia's men and women of color can fight for our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan, but many of their sons and daughters aren't going to be considered to receive HOPE scholarship dollars to attend Georgia colleges and universities. Is this a conspiracy against people of color?

Georgians of color do have options to remedy this unfair situation. They can stop playing the lottery. Also, if students of color use their God-given academic talents, they can posture themselves to meet and surpass whatever academic challenges that are placed before them to acquire their fair share of these financial scholarship awards.

And it's time for parents of color to stop programming and indoctrinating their sons and daughters to concentrate only on athletics and entertainment, and ignoring academics, because this is just absolutely absurd. Parents must see the big picture of life, whereby they must encourage their children to explore and take full advantage of all of the great opportunities that are available to them - because God didn't discriminate against people of color when he created brilliancy.

Parents of color must get serious about educating their children, because these individuals have a great deal to gain in this great nation of ours. But they must become academically prepared, and this must done by any means necessary.

Editor's note: The writer is a former Richmond County public school teacher with 31 years of teaching service. He lives in Augusta.

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