From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
January 9, 1997
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

Senator Ellis Proposes Texas HOPE Scholarship Program to Provide Free College Tuition for High-performing High School Graduates.

AUSTIN, Tx. -- State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today introduced legislation (SB 180) aimed at increasing access to a college education for high-performing Texas students. The legislation, creating a Texas HOPE Scholarship Program, would provide free college tuition to eligible high school graduates who maintain a B-average and agree to participate in community service.

"Every Texan deserves the chance to earn a college education," Ellis said. "Providing free college tuition will expand hope and opportunity for thousands of hard-working Texas students."

According to Ellis, the Texas HOPE Scholarship Program is based on a similar program in Georgia which has provided free college tuition for almost 200,000 students since the initiative began in 1993. Ellis said the Texas HOPE Scholarship Program will build on the Georgia program by providing scholarships and loans for Texas students on the condition that they give something back to their communities. To receive the college scholarships, eligible students will be required to perform community service or participate in a new Teach for Texas Program:

Community Service: Students who choose the public service option would be required to perform an average of five hours of community service per week during each academic semester at a nonprofit charitable organization or governmental entity. Through the public service option, students could earn their college scholarships by serving their communities as literacy volunteers, child care workers, assistants in hospitals or nursing homes, etc.

Teach for Texas. Based on the Teach for America program, the Teach for Texas option would provide tuition scholarships or student loan forgiveness to students who promise to teach in underserved areas for a specified period after receiving their degree. The Teach for Texas program will provide talented teachers for schools that need them and provide positive role models for students in underserved areas.

"The idea behind the Texas HOPE Program is to underscore that students are expected to give something back to their communities for what they receive," Ellis said. "We want to strike a bargain, trading more opportunity for more responsibility."

Ellis said that he will pay for the scholarship program by directing 5% of each lottery dollar earned by the state toward a Texas HOPE Scholarship Fund. Monies in the fund could be used to purchase Texas Prepaid Tuition contracts to achieve additional savings. For the fiscal biennium 1998-1999, an estimated 5% of lottery revenues would purchase nearly 30,000 four-year scholarships for Texas students.

"I will ask my colleagues to set aside a nickel of every lottery dollar to provide HOPE for Texas students," Ellis said. "I want our kids to know that if they work hard in school and stay away from drugs, they will have the opportunity to go to college regardless of their family's income."

Ellis also said that increasing access to higher education is vital for the success of the Texas workforce and the Texas economy. A typical worker with a college education earns 73% more than those without college degrees.

"For Texas to succeed in a highly competitive global economy, we simply must have the very best and brightest workforce in the nation," Ellis said. "The HOPE Scholarship Program will open the doors to a college education for our future workforce and the future leaders of this state."

Estimated 4-Year HOPE Scholarships for FY 1998-1999
Fiscal Year Estimated 5% of Lottery Revenue Texas Tomorrow Fund Price
[Beginning Academic Year]
Estimated Number of Contracts Purchased by the State of Texas*
1998 $187,500,000 $12,525.80 [1998-1999] 14,969
1999 $195,000,000 $13,901.20 [1999-2000] 14,027

* Estimated Number of Contracts Purchased by the State of Texas is equal to the estimated number of students that will be served. The total students served for the 1998-1999 biennium equals 28,996. However, this total will most likely increase due to changing retention rates and provisions requiring eligible students to apply for other available financial aid. Source: Senate Research Center.