News 12 First at Five/ April 29, 2014
AUGUSTA, Ga.--If you're looking for a new job, or maybe a career change, we're on your side with details about a new law that could help you go to school for free. It's called the Zell Miller Grant. Governor deal signed the bill into law this week. It reverses some of the cutbacks to the HOPE Scholarship.
The grant allows students who want a diploma from a tech school to get free tuition, as long as they keep up their part of the bargain.
It will help high school students like Michael Bryant, who learned how to build a go-kart from the ground up at the Technical Career Magnet School. He hopes his skills will help him get a job at a nuclear plant.
"I see myself probably at Plant Vogtle working on some of the cooling towers or doing maintenance, trying to help people get their power or do energy," he says.
He'll start taking college classes at Augusta Tech next year, while he's still a junior in high school. He plans to continue his college education there and get a four year degree. If he can keep a 3.5 GPA, the HOPE Scholarship will pay his full tuition.
"It makes it easier for everyone in my family to help me go to college and help me get the good education I need," he said.
Brandon Maynard has the same plan. He wants to get a degree in computer science at Augusta Tech so he can land his dream job. "Somewhere like Google or the NSA. The FBI likes to hire people when they're young," he explains.
Augusta TCM is helping Maynard get his start, but he's hoping the HOPE Scholarship will help him finish his degree.
"It adds some incentive to keep my grades up and keep them going, so I can improve my education for free and not have to worry about debts and stuff," he says.
If students can not maintain the 3.5 requirement, HOPE will still cover part of their tech school tuition, as long as their grades stay above a 2.0 GPA.
But not everyone is on board with the bill. State Senator Jason Carter issued this statement:
“The governor took this bill and watered it down. Now it puts on a band-aid when the patient needs surgery. The governor’s HOPE grant cuts decimated our technical college student body and led to 45,000 students leaving technical school. That’s not just a disaster for those students and their families, but it’s an economic disaster for our state. We’re already seeing some of our biggest employers like Home Depot saying they can’t find the trained people they need to fill their jobs in Georgia. If Georgia is going to compete for the jobs of the future, we need a skilled workforce. Gov. Deal’s watered-down measures will not solve this problem.”
He's referring to the 20 percent drop in enrollment at Georgia's technical colleges after the state approved cuts to HOPE three years ago. It was a move to keep funding flowing for the scholarship.