For those current and future college students in the state of Georgia, next year will bring forth major changes to one of the most popular scholarship programs in the state. Since 1994, if a student graduated from high school with a “B” average and maintained a “B” average each semester, they received the HOPE Scholarship for higher education. This scholarship, in my opinion, was quite a benefit to eligible students. Students at a public university in Georgia or technical college in Georgia received the HOPE to cover all tuition and some money for books and mandatory student fees. In essence, a good student could actually attend any Georgia public institution of higher learning for free with the help of HOPE as long as they maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average. Full-time students attending private college and universities received $4,000 a year for tuition purposes.
Finances for the program have come completely from the funds generated by the Georgia Lottery. While the Georgia Lottery has been extremely successful over the years, it is no longer as successful as it was in the early days. The lottery program is struggling to keep up with student tuition demands in an era when revenues are down. Therefore, as a result of tough economic times the program of HOPE will no longer operate as it once did. Proceeds from the lottery that have been exclusively utilized for pre-kindergarten programs across the state as well as the HOPE Scholarship program have been cut. The Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, has signed into law new standards for the HOPE Scholarship.
According to the guidelines of the new law, the HOPE will only provide full tuition payments to students that earn a 3.7 GPA and a 1200 on the SAT. Students would have to maintain this level of achievement each semester in order to keep the HOPE payments. Many students and parents have complained and expressed deep frustration with the changes. However, there is simply not enough money to continue this program at past levels. Personally, I am pleased that the program can be saved. The HOPE will still provide some funding for students with “B” averages but not full tuition. For many students exiting high school, the reality in the state of Georgia is that they failed to maintain standards of the HOPE scholarship. According to the Georgia Finance Commission, a high number of freshmen students lose their HOPE after the second semester. This fact appears to show that many students do not maintain “B” averages after departing high school.
My advice to Georgia parents is very simple. Parents should continue to encourage their high school students to do well in school. The HOPE will still be available to pay for a portion of college tuition. On the other hand, parents and students need to place more emphasis on planning and preparation for education after high school. We, as parents, should not be complacent and dependent upon a lottery program to finance our children’s education. This was a great program, but it is no longer the program that will allow a “free for all.” Students in Georgia must plan and seek out other avenues for educational funding at the college level.