Georgians' support for new restrictions on lottery-funded HOPE scholarships are stronger than previously thought, according to polling results presented to a state commission Thursday.
The Peach State Poll, conducted by University of Georgia researchers, found significant public support for limiting the scholarships to four years and a flat $3,000 a year.
"I think it's a pretty discerning public," said state Rep. Louise McBee, D-Athens, a commission co-chairwoman.
The panel - made up of lawmakers, higher-education administrators, university officials, college students and parents - was created by the General Assembly this year to look for ways to maintain the scholarships in the face of anticipated revenue shortfalls.
Funded by the Georgia Lottery, HOPE scholarships are offered to incoming college freshmen who have maintained at least a B average throughout high school. College students keep the scholarships as long as they keep those same grades.
Since its creation by Gov. Zell Miller a decade ago, HOPE has become one of the state's most popular programs. Even political candidates who once opposed the initiative, including Gov. Sonny Perdue and his predecessor, Roy Barnes, have vowed to protect it.
By fiscal year 2008, HOPE will be running an annual deficit of about $250 million, according to economic projections by UGA researchers.
In the poll, which was conducted by telephone last month, 74 percent of respondents favored limiting HOPE scholarships to four years, while 56 percent supported replacing the program's current full-tuition guarantee with a flat award of $3,000 per year.
Also, 53 percent of survey respondents favored restricting eligibility for HOPE scholarships by imposing an annual family-income cap of $100,000. The poll's margin of error was 3.5 percentage points.