ATLANTA — Numerous state-funded college scholarship programs aimed at keeping teachers and other important professionals in Georgia would dry up for the next fiscal year under Gov. Sonny Perdue’s proposed budget.
Altogether about $11.2 million in forgivable loans for future Georgia teachers would be gone as of July 1, as would another $3.2 million for students in “critical fields of study” including nursing, physical therapy and pharmacy.
Another scholarship for would-be engineers who stay in Georgia also would go away. That program benefits Mercer University, the state’s only private engineering school. Mercer has 183 students enrolled in the program now, each getting $3,500 in forgivable loans from the state, Mercer President Bill Underwood said last week.
The Macon-based university also is facing a $1.8 million cut in a state program that helps train doctors planning to stay in state, and Underwood said he hopes at least some of the engineering money will be reinstated before the General Assembly finalizes Perdue’s budget. The program helps prepare students to work at Robins Air Force Base and “saves the taxpayers millions of dollars each year” that would otherwise be spent on operating public engineering programs, Underwood said.
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The other scholarship programs could also be put back in the spending plan as legislators pick their way through the governor’s budget proposals. But there doesn’t seem to be much money to reinstate anywhere in a fiscal 2011 budget that includes many other major cuts.
Perdue has acknowledged that some of his cuts will hit programs “near and dear to many of our hearts,” but he has said the state simply can’t afford them.
“We just have not seen these kind of times before,” Perdue said when he rolled out his budget last week.
One of the teaching loan programs that would be cut is called the “Promise Scholarship.” It gives students $3,000 a year in their junior and senior years if they promise to teach in Georgia schools.
Eliminating that program would affect Macon State College, which awarded $79,500 in “promise funds” last year, according to its enrollment office. When a similar program for nursing students was cut last year, students turned to the federal Stafford Loan program, which requires repayment.
Teaching students probably will follow the same path, said Dee Minter, Macon State’s associate vice president for enrollment.
“Hopefully, elimination of these funding sources will not prevent students from entering into these critical fields,” Minter said. “But in the absence of service repayable loans, many students will enter the work force with a greater student loan burden to repay.”
To contact writer Travis Fain call 361-2702.