Special Photo Gov. Nathan Deal signs a bill into law Friday giving dual-enrollment students a boost with the HOPE Scholarship.

Special Photo Gov. Nathan Deal signs a bill into law Friday giving dual-enrollment students a boost with the HOPE Scholarship.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- When Lee Merritt's son Kendall graduated from Central Gwinnett High School, he was a few credits shy of being a college senior.

But because the dual-enrollment college courses he took were not given the same weight as advanced placement classes, he came short of receiving the Zell Miller Scholarship to have his education paid for.

"He was at a disadvantage," Merritt said Friday, after watching Gov. Nathan Deal sign into law a new provision that would give college classes equal credit compared to international baccaleureate and advanced placement classes when determining the HOPE Scholarship. The Zell Miller Scholarship is a higher level of the same program, which provides 100 percent of the tuition for students with a 3.7 grade-point average, compared to the 90 percent tuition now covered under the 3.0 average with HOPE.

"We need to allow young people to move on when they are ready to move on," Deal said at the ceremony at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville. "That's what education is about, stretching your mind."

When Merritt learned that she would have to pay thousands in tuition due to the system, she called Rep. Valerie Clark, who was formerly the principal at Central.

"I just want it to be a seamless transition for kids," said Clark, whose two sons also chose dual enrollment while in high school. "The thing is, it's the same difficulty. You should have the same advantage."

Michael Jenkins, a student at Mountain View High School who takes four classes at Georgia Gwinnett, said many of his friends chose not to do dual enrollment because they worried their grades wouldn't stay high enough for the HOPE scholarship.

A member of the Latter Day Saints, Jenkins wanted to have as much schooling done as possible before he left for the traditional two-year mission trip. But because he plans to transfer to Brigham Young University, the HOPE scholarship measure won't impact him.

Still, he enjoyed meeting the governor on Friday, and he will even get credit for his government class for the experience.

"It was a hallmark occasion," he said. "It definitely made my day."