New law gives additional aid to high achievers, bolstering workforce development
Gov. Nathan Deal today signed into law HB 697, a bill establishing the Zell Miller Grant to provide full tuition coverage for technical college students who are eligible for the HOPE Grant and maintain a 3.5 GPA.
"To fulfill the needs of our ever-growing economy, we need more of our citizens to acquire education and skills beyond high school," Deal said. "This additional benefit will provide greater access to education, cultivating a highly skilled workforce and helping keep us the No. 1 place in the nation in which to do business. This bill received overwhelming bipartisan support, and I applaud the General Assembly for working with me to reward Georgia's high-achieving students and bolster the state's ability to attract and fill jobs."
Based on current enrollment numbers, the Zell Miller Grant will cover approximately 16,000 students attending Technical College System of Georgia schools, or 20 percent of all HOPE Grant recipients. The grant will provide approximately $11 million in additional financial aid to technical college students.
Deal also included an additional $5 million in this year's budget to expand the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant -- a supplement to the HOPE Grant -- to include additional high-demand fields, bringing the total funding for the program to $11.5 million. Students eligible for the HOPE Grant and enrolled in welding, health care technology, diesel mechanics and information technology, nursing, early learning or truck driving may apply. This grant covers much or all of the difference between the HOPE Grant and full tuition and will benefit approximately 12,000 technical college students this year. Award amounts and targeted programs can be adjusted, based on financial outlooks and changing economic needs of the state.
"Employment is the primary goal of education," Deal said. "We do not want a young person to work hard, accumulate debt for student loans and then graduate with a diploma in a field where there are no jobs. The strategic industries grant will incentivize students to persue occupations where we know jobs are available and shortages actually exist. Both of these postsecondary education programs are an investment in our students and the economic vitality of our state."
Financial aid for these grants will come from the Georgia Lottery education fund and will not financially impact current lottery funded programs. The Georgia Student Finance Commission will manage the application process for these grants.