April 12, 2024

Should Ga. drug charges keep college funds out of reach?

ATLANTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – A state lawmaker is fighting back against what he calls an outdated law that denies Georgia students HOPE Scholarship money if they’re convicted of a nonviolent drug offense.

State Rep. Eric Bell (D-Jonesboro) authored House Bill 853 to repeal the Drug-Free Postsecondary Education Act of 1990.


“You get caught with a doobie and convicted of a crime, your life is thrown away in that instant,” Bell said. “It’s not that they’re criminals. They made a mistake. I think it’s time to change and reform how we treat people who suffer from addiction.”

Bell said minority students are impacted the most. According to the Ford Foundation, Black Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana charges than white Americans. According to the NAACP, Black Americans make up nearly 30 percent of all drug-related arrests, despite accounting for only 12.5 percent of all substance users.

Orrin Hudson is a mentor at Be Someone in Stone Mountain. Hudson says he believes in mercy, forgiveness, and second chances, which is why he supports the bill.

“Look at me, I was in a gang. People make some mistakes when they’re young, but a teacher pulled me aside and corrected me. We want to stop the violence. If it’s not violent, I think they should have mercy. Because if they win, we win, if they lose, we lose, we’re all connected,” said Hudson.

This bill will be read during the 2024 Legislative Session that begins Monday.

What is the HOPE Scholarship?

The HOPE Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship that could cover the majority of a student’s tuition for students attending eligible institutions in Georgia. Students attending a public college can receive a scholarship covering up to 15 class hours. Students attending a private university can receive up to 12 hours.

Recipients must graduate high school with a minimum 3.0 grade-point average and maintain a 3.00 in college to remain eligible.

Students can receive the payment up to 10 years after high school graduation or equivalent, 127 semester hours, or the completion of an undergraduate degree.

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