From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
March 8, 1999
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senators Ellis, Wentworth Outline Texas HOPE Scholarships For Hard-working Students

(AUSTIN (03/8/99) -- Comparing its potential impact to the GI Bill, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) today outlined to the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education their Texas HOPE Scholarship Program, SB 37, which would provide college tuition to hard-working Texas students.

The Texas HOPE Scholarship Program will provide tuition and fees to high school students who have completed college preparatory courses and maintained a 2.5 GPA or better. It is based on a similar, successful program in Georgia that provides scholarships to any student with a "B" average.

"On the doorstep of the 21st Century, the importance of a college education has never been greater," said Senator Ellis. "The Texas HOPE Scholarship could be the GI Bill of the 21st Century, offering a generation of hard working Texas students an opportunity to get the education they need to succeed."

In the last fiscal year, nearly 137,000 Georgia students earned HOPE Scholarships totaling $173 million. Between 1993 and 1998, 319,000 Georgia students received HOPE Scholarships totaling more than $580 million. In the past three years, five additional states -- Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland and South Carolina -- have begun scholarship programs similar to Georgia The total funding level and number of grants for the Texas HOPE Scholarship program will depend on available revenue.

Texas is already behind the curve in preparing college graduates for the next century. Today, Texas ranks 48th in the nation in percent of high school students earning a college degree. We would need to produce an additional 16,100 college graduates simply to meet the national average, an increase of over 20 percent. And, as high technology industries such as computers, telecommunications and energy begin to play an even larger role in Texas economic success, even greater levels of education will be needed to compete in the 21st Century.

"If we do not begin to produce more highly-educated workers, the high tech boom of the 90s will become a high tech bust next century," said Ellis. "Now is the time for Texas to make a down payment on our children's future by offering them a real shot at a college education."

Texas' investment in financial aid has dropped as individual student debt is rising. In 1992, Texas paid 17 percent of financial assistance programs. By 1996, the state's share had declined to 14.4 percent. At the same time, the percentage of student financial aid covered by loans increased from 58.1 percent in 1992 to 70.1 percent in 1996. Average student debt at the University of Texas increased from $5,300 in 1989 to $14,200 in 1997.

"Today, the door to opportunity has been closed to too many Texas students because they cannot afford the rising price of college. Texas HOPE Scholarships can be the vehicle that gives more hard-working Texas students a chance at a brighter future. "