College Is Already Affordable, Likely for Most Recipients

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College Is Already Affordable, Likely for Most Recipients

Georgia's HOPE Scholarship Goes to Lots of Kids Who Don't Need It

Newspaper article

By: Andrea Jones

Date: November 11, 2003

Source: Jones, Andrea. "College Is Already Affordable, Likely for Most Recipients." Atlanta Journal-Constitution (November 11, 2003).

About the Author: Andrea Jones is a journalist and staff writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


The Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) Scholarship was created by a former governor of the state of Georgia, Zell Miller (1932–). The intent of the program is to motivate students to achieve excellent grades while in high school by offering them financial incentives for college in the form of lottery-based scholarships. The scholarships are based primarily on the attainment of high grades and only secondarily on financial need. They can be used at technical and vocational schools and colleges, as well as at participating private and public colleges and universities throughout the state of Georgia. The program was begun in 1993, and the funds are derived from the state lottery system, called the Georgia Lottery for Education.

One of the unusual characteristics of this scholarship program is that it may be awarded to those attending post-secondary schools other than standard four-year colleges or universities, in the form of a HOPE grant. Students pursuing certificates or diplomas at technical or vocational schools, as well as those pursuing associate's degrees at those types of educational institutions, may be eligible for HOPE grants, as long as they are engaged in the process of pursuing a terminal degree, certificate, or diploma in their chosen field of study. The academic requirements are somewhat less rigorous than for those in the more traditional post-secondary programs, mandating simply that students make (and continue to achieve) satisfactory progress toward the completion of their programs. They need not be full-time enrollees. They also do not need to achieve a specific grade-point average or to attend post-secondary school immediately after completion of high school. Students can apply for the HOPE grant for as many technical or vocational programs as they wish.

HOPE scholarships have significantly different requirements than do HOPE grants. Students wishing to obtain the scholarships must take college preparatory classes in high school and must achieve an overall average of "B" or higher. This translates to a minimum numeric average of eighty percent or a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.0 on a four-point grade scale. Students who are engaged in the technical studies programs at their high schools must maintain an average of just under a "B+" (a numeric average of eighty-five percent or a cumulative grade-point average of 3.2 on the four-point grade scale).

Another unusual feature of the HOPE scholarship program is that it is open to nontraditional students, including those who do not attend college or a technical or vocational school immediately after completion of high school; those who have taken some college or technical courses without completion of a program; and those who completed a two-year degree or technical or vocational program and wish to resume studies for a more advanced degree or certificate.

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The most controversial characteristic of the HOPE grants and the HOPE scholarships is that they are based on achievement and academic eligibility, rather than determined by financial need. The annual pool of available grant and scholarship funds is determined by the lottery proceeds of the previous fiscal year. Part of the logic for this system has to do with a belief in equal educational opportunity for all high achievers, rewarding academic excellence rather than supplementing parental or family income. The scholarships, for those attending public community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities, cover tuition, those fees and costs approved by the HOPE program, and a stipend to be used for the purchase of textbooks and academic supplies. The scholarships do not cover the entirety of tuition or fees for eligible and participating private colleges and universities, whose costs are typically significantly higher than for equivalent public institutions. For those students, tuition equalization grants are available, to help offset the cost differential.

The HOPE programs have been in effect for well over a decade, and some changes have been made over time. There is a cap on the number of credit hours that students may attempt in order to achieve a bachelor's-level degree, unless they are in specific types of programs requiring more credits, such as combined degree programs. There is a similar cap for students in vocational or technical programs, limiting the number of courses taken prior to the completion of a program or course of training. All must achieve satisfactory progress toward program completion for grant award students, or maintain a minimum of a "B" average across all coursework undertaken (meaning that the average must consider every course taken, whether or not it was completed). "Checkpoints" have now been introduced, which are benchmarks that must be achieved by students in order to maintain eligibility for the HOPE grants or scholarships. Once students hit the upper limits for attempted hours of course-work, or paid semesters of college, vocational, or technical school, they will lose their eligibility. Students whose academic performance falls below the accepted levels at the various checkpoints will also lose their eligibility. However, the system has also built in the possibility that students who have lost eligibility based on poor academic performance may also shore up their grades, reapply, and be equitably considered for potential scholarship reinstatement. The state of Georgia has also instituted caps on funding, called "triggers," based on the pool of lottery funds remaining at the end of a given fiscal budget year.

The Georgia HOPE programs have achieved national significance, in part because they represent something of a fiscal experiment in widening the available funding streams for higher education. In part, the goal behind the HOPE scholarships and grants has been the broadening of educational possibilities, particularly for students at public colleges and universities, and for those at technical and vocational schools. By offering students incentives for the achievement of good grades, it was theorized that more students would be motivated toward academic excellence and the pursuit of studies beyond high school. While it was recognized that some recipients' families would have ample financial resources to fund their continuing educations, it was believed that such students would represent a relatively small percentage of the overall number of eligible students. Available published research by the state has suggested that the lottery system in Georgia has been effective thus far, despite contentions that the funds benefit those who could have financed their educations by other means, as well as those for whom the grants and scholarships provide the only viable route to the pursuit of higher education. There is significant census and research data indicating that post-secondary enrollment by students from the poorest and least academically enriched school districts has risen considerably. Some controversy has arisen centered on the use of lottery funds, which are disproportionately derived from people in lower income brackets, but there is good evidence that the programs have benefited a number of students who might otherwise have not pursued higher education.



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Web sites

DTAE: Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education. "HOPE: Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally." August 30, 2005 < HOPEWORKS> (accessed June 1, 2006).

Georgia Student Finance Commission. "Scholarship and Grant Program Regulations." May 19, 2004 <http://www.> (accessed June 1, 2006).

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College Is Already Affordable, Likely for Most Recipients

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College Is Already Affordable, Likely for Most Recipients