COBB COUNTY, Ga. - Georgians are remembering former Gov. Zell Miller who died with his family by his side Friday morning at the age of 86.
His legacy lives on today helping students across the state get an education with the state’s Pre-K program and the HOPE Scholarship.
At Kennesaw State University there are 14,000 students getting scholarships funded by the lottery that Miller pushed so hard for.
The cream of the crop receives full tuition through the Zell Miller scholarship.
Channel 2’s Jim Strickland spoke with a student Friday who's been accepted to six Ph.D. programs and wonders whether she'd even be in school without the scholarship.
“I'm a first-generation college student, and without the Zell Miller (scholarship), I don't think I would have considered going to a university as an option for me,” student Lee Spence told Strickland.
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Spence, now a senior at KSU, has plenty of options. She is a 3.9 GPA math major; the type of homegrown talent Miller wanted to retain with a scholarship funded by the Georgia Lottery.
“It also influenced me to stay in Georgia since it really made it significantly less expensive to come here,” Spence said.
Since its inception in 1993, Miller's lottery has funded education for 1.8 million college students, giving more than $10 billion in scholarships.
“The economic impact and the ability for students to go to college is unlike any other thing in the state,” Sarah Baumhoff from KSU’s financial aid office.
Baumhoff worked at the state agency that disperses the HOPE Scholarship before joining KSU.
She told Strickland that other states have copied the Miller model, but none have matched its quarter century record.
“Ours was the first, probably has the most money spent on it, and has made the biggest impact so far,” Baumhoff said about the scholarship program.
The bill that created the Georgia Lottery barely passed, with a 52-48 percent vote.
All time sales for the Georgia Lottery are now approaching $70 billion. Current HOPE Scholarship enrollment is nearly 175,000 students.
This June the lottery will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its first ticket sale. Who scratched the first ticket? Zell Miller.
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