Following the 2003 legislative session, you were appointed by House Speaker Terry Coleman as Co-chair of the HOPE scholarship study commission. Talk to us a little bit about how HOPE has changed Georgia.
Well, it has changed Georgia. I have said it was the best thing that happened to the state in the 20thcentury, the last century, and I really, truly believe that. Why…because it raised the aspiration level of students who had never thought that college was in their future. They saw with that money, they had a chance, and then it kept our brightest students in state. Those are two major things that deal with the population of the state, and that is the reason I think it was the best thing that happened to Georgia. Over 800,000 students now have gone through the university system, or the state system with the HOPE Scholarship. It is the best program in the country, and the reason why the politicians fight about it in terms of who is doing the most for it…you know the lieutenant governor has got what he wants to do with it, and the governor had what he wanted to do with it, and several other bills have been…it is because it is popular and everybody knows about it. You ask anybody about what the HOPE scholarship, and they know. And so it makes it a good political asset if you can use it, and a target for all the politicians. It is not in any danger. The study committee that was appointed by the governor to study it the last summer I was there, was made up of students, parents, and the heads of all the agencies that were involved with HOPE, plus some faculty members. It was a good committee, and the report that we came out with takes care of the HOPE Scholarship. There was one thing that was done that you see in the paper that people get aggravated about, was that they used the money to build a technology building at Tech…Georgia Tech. It is a beautiful building. It fit under the definition of what money could be used for with HOPE, except nobody expected them when they said technology, to build a building. They expected them to give computers, which they did to public school kids and to college students for a while. They expected technology in that frame of reference and not in the frame of reference of a 57 million dollar building, so it made a lot of people, including yours truly, angry when they found out it was done very quietly and not very open. They could defend it that it was a building that is a technology building, a beautiful building on the Tech campus. So there is now a bill in that was put in by that committee that says no more buildings out of the HOPE money, because it cuts too big a swath of the funds. They have been concerned about the amount of money diminishing, but there has only been one year since it started twelve years ago, twelve or thirteen, where it has been less than the year before. They offer new lottory games. There are more people in this state, and so they keep playing. The thing that I think is the biggest question that may still arise with the HOPE…it was . . is whether or not it should be a need based scholarship, and people will make that argument as they did when our study committee, but then they always come back to we are keeping our bright students in the state and those are the ones who do have money. A lot of them are from monied families that could send them anywhere they wanted to, so but they keep them in Georgia and give them a car, or a house, or an apartment or whatever.
It certainly has changed the landscape of…
It has changed the landscape of Georgia and will continue to change it. Uh, and there may be a time when they will think that…because it is people who have need are the ones who play the lottery the most. Seventy percent, at one point the data they had gathered, seventy percent of the people who play the lottery, are people who make less than $25,000, so that does seem sad, but the committee that studied it decided nevertheless they would keep it for everybody, because HOPE stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally. It doesn't say anything about how rich or poor you are.