Deal said Georgia lottery proceeds, which fund the program, cannot keep up with rising college tuition and enrollment.
The new law narrows the pool of students eligible for the full HOPE scholarship and limit funds and services previously provided by HOPE.
Under the new law, students who are either the high school valedictorian, salutatorian or earn a 3.7 GPA and a 1200 on the SAT are eligible for a full scholarship to state public colleges. The bill also would eliminate payments for books, fees and remedial classes.
Students with a 3.0 GPA, previously eligible for the full scholarship, will still receive money, but the amount will be tied to lottery revenue, not tuition. This fall, the scholarship will cover 90 percent of tuition for eligible students under the 3.7 mark.
Students held several protests against the bill, even storming the state Capitol to interrupt debate on the Senate floor. Democrats and some civil rights groups also criticized the bill, saying it discriminated against minority and low-income students.