Gov. Nathan Deal today announced the launch of the state's new needs-based college scholarship program, the REACH Scholarship (Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen). At Georgia Tech, Deal kicked off an aggressive fund-raising campaign by announcing the REACH Scholarship's first corporate sponsor, AT&T, which donated $250,000.
"The REACH Scholarship continues our state's ongoing commitment to providing access to higher education for all Georgians, regardless of their income," said Deal. "This scholarship will reward students for self accountability, promote parent involvement and provide motivation and support; all factors that we know are critical in student educational achievement.
"Contributions from companies such as AT&T are important to this effort. This gift demonstrates that AT&T understands the need to ensure that all Georgia students have access to post-secondary opportunities. We encourage other Georgia companies and citizens to get involved in this effort."
REACH Scholars will be selected in middle school and will sign a contract to maintain a certain grade average, remain crime, drug, and behavior issue free and meet with a volunteer mentor until they graduate from high school. Their parents or guardians will also sign a contract to support their student through their education. Students who complete program requirements will receive a renewable yearly tuition scholarship of $2,500 to be used at any HOPE eligible institution. This amount will cover the average gap between other needs-based scholarships, such as Pell, and the full cost of attendance.
Identifying students and awarding scholarship money will happen at the local level, with each partner school district. Douglas, Rabun and Bulloch County School Systems will be the first to pilot the REACH Scholarship, with additional partner districts to come on board each year.
Deal also commended Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson for the institute's commitment to match the REACH Scholarship award for any REACH Scholars that are accepted to and enroll at Georgia Tech and called for other institutions, public and private, to make similar pledges.
"I want to thank Dr. Peterson and his team for joining our quest to reward those who perform well in school and need extra help to ensure they are able to enroll in college," he said. "I also encourage other campus leaders across the state to follow Georgia Tech's lead in making this a successful program for years to come."
The REACH Scholarship will be funded entirely with private dollars, and a 501(c)3 tax-exempt foundation has been established to spearhead fund-raising efforts. The foundation is housed at the Georgia Student Finance Commission, the state agency that provides financial aid to help Georgia students realize their higher education dreams.
"AT&T's commitment to supporting education spans decades and continues today," said Judy Agerton, regional vice president community affairs -- AT&T Georgia. "The REACH Scholarship will open the door to a post-secondary education for at-risk youth in Georgia who may have not otherwise had an opportunity."
Deal recognized the work of Dr. Howard Hinesley, superintendent of Cartersville City Schools, who brought this scholarship model to Georgia and to the attention of the Governor's Office. Dr. Hinesley began a scholarship with this model while he was a superintendent in Florida, which scaled the program statewide.
The REACH Scholarship is part of Deal's "Complete College Georgia" initiative, launched in August 2011. By 2018, more than 60 percent of job openings in Georgia will require some form of postsecondary education. Complete College Georgia is designed to increase the number of students with access to higher education and ensure that these students graduate with relevant postsecondary degrees in a timely manner.