Legislature can’t ignore the HOPE crisis any longer

The cost of graduating a Georgia college will be higher if HOPE is reduced.

The cost of graduating a Georgia college will be higher if HOPE is reduced.

With the HOPE scholarship bleeding money, the Legislature only has two choices to save the popular program. It can either slash the number of HOPE recipients or the amount that each student receives.

Neither will be politically popular, which explains why lawmakers long ignored the gathering storm clouds over HOPE until the winds nearly blew off the roof of the Capitol.

As early as 2003, legislators were warned that the Georgia Lottery would have a hard time keeping up with the two education programs it supports, HOPE and universal pre-k. This fiscal year, the lottery will be short $243 million. By 2012, the shortfall grows to $317 million.

Seven years ago, the state assembled a commission that made recommendations for deep cuts to HOPE, but a better-than-expected haul in lottery proceeds convinced lawmakers that the state could afford to wait to eviscerate HOPE.

So while the 2004 Legislature passed a bill that permitted an eventual phaseout of books and fees if the program’s finances deteriorated further, lawmakers also tacked on an amendment opening the scholarship to part-time private college students.

The annual price tag of that addition at the time was $4.5 million — or the cost of 1,000 HOPE scholarships at the University of Georgia.

The private college provision won legislative approval even though legislators knew that the HOPE scholarship would eventually outpace the lottery funds. The entire history of HOPE reflects expansions by the Georgia General Assembly, including allowing private college students who lost HOPE because of low grades to get a “second chance” to regain it, as given to public college students. The Legislature also expanded HOPE to home-schooled students and to students from unaccredited high schools.

The strain on HOPE resources also comes from the increased high school graduation rate, which is sending more Georgia teens to college. And the bleak economy is sending more Georgians back to school, fueling increases in the HOPE grants, which go to technical school students.

Now, Gov.-elect Nathan Deal and leaders of the House and Senate appear sobered by the dire situation and prepared to make significant changes to the scholarship program, which has helped more than 1.4 million Georgians attend college since 1993. To earn HOPE, high school students have to have a 3.0 grade-point average. To keep it once in college, they have to maintain a 3.0 GPA.

Many ideas on how to cut costs — and hopefully irk the fewest number of voters — are under discussion by lawmakers. All have drawbacks and will draw howls of protest.

The simplest idea is to raise the threshold to qualify for HOPE so fewer scholarships are awarded. Perhaps, students would have to have a 3.2 GPA to earn HOPE in high school and keep it in college.

There’s already quibbling from people who contend that the GPA requirement should be calibrated to match the rigor of the major. So, students in engineering or math may only have to keep a 2.75 GPA, while English majors might be held to a 3.5 GPA average. Otherwise, students might shun the science, math and engineering degrees that are desperately needed in Georgia because those majors are often the most grueling.

Another idea is to reduce the HOPE award so it only pays for 80 percent or 75 percent of college costs. That would be politically more palatable, as it wouldn’t entail cutting the number of HOPE recipients.

But it dulls the shine of the scholarship, which flourished on a simple and accessible concept: Graduate with a B average from high school and go to a public college or university for absolutely free.

“Nearly free” or “at a discounted rate” don’t have the same panache.

A prominent DeKalb lawmaker recommends incorporating a minimum SAT/ACT score to qualify for HOPE. State Rep. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, said tightening the eligibility will eliminate the number of HOPE scholars in remedial classes.

In the fall of 2009, Millar said 10.4 percent of the University System of Georgia’s incoming freshmen students in remediation were getting HOPE. He argued that low SAT scores are a good indicator that a student will struggle in college. Millar cited state data showing that 3,465 public college freshmen with SAT scores under 1000 arrived on campus with HOPE in 2008. A year later, only 1,982 of these students returned to a Georgia public college.

No one likes my money-saving idea — once students lose HOPE in college, they can’t regain it. Parents tell me about their son’s killer semester at Tech or their daughter’s bad spell at UGA and argue that students deserve a second chance at HOPE.

I counter that students need to learn that sometimes there are no second chances. Otherwise, students may be forced to learn another tough lesson: There are no free lunches or tuition anymore, either.

–By Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

175 comments Add your comment

Toto: speakin' the truth to power

December 28th, 2010
1:30 pm

@ 30327
I totally agree with you on the lottery bonuses. Do a little more research and you will find that some state lotteries are run by non-US entities. U.S. citizens in general are suckers, not just Georgians.

For real?

December 28th, 2010
3:38 pm

“No one likes my money-saving idea — once students lose HOPE in college, they can’t regain it. Parents tell me about their son’s killer semester at Tech or their daughter’s bad spell at UGA and argue that students deserve a second chance at HOPE”

Of course nobody likes your idea. What about the students who don’t get HOPE after high school, and their only chance is to work their butts off in college to be able to apply after 30 semester hours.

Also, I currently have HOPE, and it certainly isn’t “free.” Sure… it covers all of my tuition and “fees” so therefore it IS “nearly free” What HOPE doesn’t pay for, I do. Which happens to be about $500 per semester at GA State. So to cut it even more would really hurt those who already have it and would actually not even motivate them to try as hard.

Also, I don’t like the fact that you’re saying certain majors are harder than others. It really depends on the person. Obviously, if you’re really bad at something, then you aren’t going to major in it. DUH. For example, English is probably difficult for a math major, like math is for an english major.

Also, the DeKalb lawmaker doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The SAT has no relevance to intellignece whatsoever. I don’t even know why it is a requirement to get into most GA colleges. I know someone who graduated high school with a 4.5 GPA (an AP/IB student) who BOMBED the SAT. It is not a very good thing to judge by. I know that my SAT score would probably not be good enough either, even though I currently have a 3.88 GPA in college.

Seriously?!? This whole article is dumb.

For real?

December 28th, 2010
3:50 pm

I meant to say that it covers all of tuition and SOME fees. And that $500 extra is going to the college… it doesn’t even take into account the 500 more that goes into books.

Maureen Downey

December 28th, 2010
3:55 pm

@For real, Actually, you have it backwards. SAT scores do align pretty well with IQ, so they do, in fact, have relevance to intelligence. What they don’t have relevance to is effort, which is how you can have a friend with a 4.5 GPA and a low SAT.
(But the fact is that kids who score at the top end on the SAT typically do well in college. You will not see too many kids with 1,500 and higher struggling in college.)
And if you have a 3.88 in college, then you ought to have grasped the simple fact that something will have to be cut from HOPE. It cannot remain at this level because the money is running out. I didn’t see any suggestions from you on how to cut millions from HOPE.

Toto: Ding Dong the witch is dead! (Almost)

December 28th, 2010
4:43 pm

Dorothy! Put on those SILVER dancing shoes and tin foil hat! Buy silver and fund your kid’s education…


December 28th, 2010
5:04 pm

Here’s an unpopular suggestion.

Stop pretending that every idiot in the world has an equal right to weigh in on this question and leave it up to educational experts. Fully fund state colleges so they don’t have to increase tuition and you won’t have to cut HOPE at all.

As to cutting pre-K programs? Don’t listen to people who don’t know anything. Those programs are one of the few equalizers to help lower-income children develop some of the skills that middle-income children get at home.

But really, stop asking non-experts to make public policy. Just read through these comments. Morons.

Toto: Ding Dong the witch is dead! (Almost)

December 28th, 2010
5:16 pm


I am impressed with your erudite comments. Have you read the U.S. or state Constitutions? The “educational experts” are voted on and funded by We the People. Socialist money grubbers like yourself don’t deserve to live in this country.


December 28th, 2010
7:35 pm

I think HOPE is what Beverly Hall needed a couple of months ago…and I think HOPE is as corrupt as those in positions of administration within Atlanta Public Schools. They are all picking from the same money tree.

Get real hopeful…cause I think the DEAL is going to show you how all this operates.
and won’t be pretty for those living outside of the in house “GANG”

Hide and Watch how they “do it” on the Northside of Atlanta.


December 28th, 2010
7:38 pm

and i dont apologizzz for pour grammer…get the point

There is a message in here …yous just gotsta figure it out.


December 28th, 2010
7:40 pm

brer rabbit and the tar baby…
Now i loves to read that story…


December 28th, 2010
7:44 pm

Tar-Baby ain’t sayin’ nuthin’, en Brer Fox he lay low.

“`How duz yo’ sym’tums seem ter segashuate?’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee.

“Brer Fox, he wink his eye slow, en lay low, en de Tar-Baby, she ain’t sayin’ nuthin’.

“‘How you come on, den? Is you deaf?’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee. ‘Kaze if you is, I kin holler louder,’ sezee.

“Tar-Baby stay still, en Brer Fox, he lay low.

“‘You er stuck up, dat’s w’at you is,’ says Brer Rabbit, sezee, ‘en I;m gwine ter kyore you, dat’s w’at I’m a gwine ter do,’ sezee.

“Brer Fox, he sorter chuckle in his stummick, he did, but Tar-Baby ain’t sayin’ nothin’.

“‘I’m gwine ter larn you how ter talk ter ’spectubble folks ef hit’s de las’ ack,’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee. ‘Ef you don’t take off dat hat en tell me howdy, I’m gwine ter bus’ you wide open,’ sezee.

“Tar-Baby stay still, en Brer Fox, he lay low.


December 28th, 2010
9:45 pm

in reply to comments on page 2 or so, one does not have to be “affluent” to pay for college out of pocket. There is a noble concept that should be a staple in this society and its called living within your means. Every American is afforded the opportunity to save for large purchases or investments. Even if you work at McDonald’s. If you are in debt and depend on government entitlements, that was your choice. Save your nickels and pay for your education. There is no law that states you have to be enrolled full time, nor do you have to complete your education within 4 yrs when paying out of pocket.

Again, Americans cannot have their cake and eat it too. You can’t gripe about government involvement then whine because they won’t pay for your education.

another comment.

December 30th, 2010
3:05 am

@toto; I will always be a proud Yankee who graduated 5th in my Engineering Program from the #1 Program in the Country and was recruited by an Atlanta Company over Tech graduates. Sorry, they didn’t hire Tech graduates. My SAT Verbal and Math scores were way above the Georgia average, so were my GMAT and LSAT ones that I have taken. I have one child that has scored in the 99% on the MATH IOWA tests. They both always score above 92-96 % on their IOWA tests. The CRT and EOST are irrelovent tests. I also scored the highest test score ever on the NY state History Regents Exam.

This is a blog, not a place looking for writing perfection. My point was HOPE is for Scholars, not students who need remediation. Colleges that do not have a graduation rate of 80% in 6 years should not be eligible. Another criteria should be a student loan default rate of over 7-8%. Schools like Emory, Mercer, Spellman, SCAD save the State money by Georgia students attending with a Hope Scholarship. However, this simple equation seams to be beyond some of you.

What many of you are missing is many small business owners can manipulate their adjusted gross income down to below an income cap of $75k or $50K even low enough to get Pell Grants for college, with the help of a good CPA. It’s is fairly simple if you know graduate level Accounting, Finance, Tax classes, that the BMW, Mercedes are all company cars, so is the home office. Grandma and Grandpa made gifts to Westminster and Lovett for that tuition it corresponds to the gift limit.) So alot of rich kids would still get the hope even with a Cap on income, it would just hurt people who would for a corporation in an upper middle income job.

Yes, with Hope Scholarship it is affordable, but without it, other schools become contenders. Is what I am saying.

[...] posted here: Legislature can’t omit a HOPE predicament any longer – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blo… This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged georgia, hope, legislature, money, number, [...]


January 3rd, 2011
2:56 am

Here again the government wants to throw more money at the problem enstead of solving the problem.

They know 40% of the first year hope students a failing because parents have put pressure on high school administrators to change their childs grades to it averages out to 3.0. The administrator forces the teacher to change the grades.

The higher education committee in the house of representatives should introduce a bill to with hold state funds from the high school equal to the amount of HOPE funds paid in for failed students the previous year.

You cut off the money to the school doing the grade changing and it will stop.


January 4th, 2011
9:05 am

Figures. The last good thing our state ever did and they completely let it get to the point of disaster.

Capitol Hill is worthless.

math teacher

January 4th, 2011
9:35 am

I attended college in Alabama on a math scholarship with the understanding that for every 2years I taught in Alabama 1 year of scholarship would be forgiven.
I choose to not teach in AL but instead came to GA to teach
My Scholarship reverted to a student loan and I had to repay it in full. Seems to me the basic concept could be applied here. Loose HOPE and becomes a student loan and has to be repaid (maybe even give the 2nd chance)
That seems fair to me, after all education is not a right but a privilege to be earned.
Also it seems to me the only way a student who has to take remedial classes got into college is with inflated grades and should NOT receive HOPE funds for those classes. Thats my take on it.

Dave from GT

January 4th, 2011
9:44 am

You get what you pay for.

You value what you pay your own money for.

There was a time when people had a hard time getting into Georgia Tech in order to have the privelege of paying their own money for that education – even out of state !

You find out real quick if that is your passion under those circumstances.

It also put some free market pressure on the system !

Perhaps the State should go back to letting the laws of supply and demand work.

Except……… the farmers and tree huggers that want to go to UGA may not be able to scare up the price of admission !

The Producer

January 4th, 2011
9:57 am

Maybe there is HOPE in the OAKEY WOODS area….See Gov. Perdue…….


January 4th, 2011
9:59 am

Yes, stop the obscene bonuses to lottery executives. But, another issue you have are “public” high schools “giving” grades to the students so they “qualify”. (Yes, they get the boo hoo stories, how the child won’t get the “HOPE” is they don’t make this grade.) Hence, you have how many students with a “B” average having to take so many remedial classes? It’s very clear. If your raise the requirement to 3.2, they’ll pad them just as much.
Stop lowering the standards of education and let people know, you have to put forth effort or guess what? You may fail. Maybe if you fail, you’ll learn you have to work to succeed in life!


January 4th, 2011
10:01 am

I’m sure there may be grade inflation happening at some high schools, but it is definitely not an issue at my daughter’s school. She’s a smart kid who takes honors and gifted classes and has about a 2.9 GPA. Her friend, who admits herself she is not as smart as my daughter, has a 3.8 GPA – the difference? She takes all college prep classess. Now, I could let my daughter take college prep classes so she would have a 3.8 GPA – but then, she wouldn’t be ready for the rigors of college and would likely do poorly her first year. So – all of you who think a “B” average makes somebody a scholar should maybe look a little closer. There is no reward in the GPA for taking harder classes. My friend’s daughter is taking 5 AP classes her senior year and acing all of them. Yes, she’ll get college credit for those – but it should also show up in her GPA. My daughter wants to go to college and get her degree in education and be a Special Education teacher. She may not be able to do that without the Hope. We make a good income and therefore will very likely qualify for little to no financial aid, but we are not wealthy. If she or we can get loans, then we’d absolutely be willing to pay for her school ourselves (I paid for my own education, Bachelor’s and Master’s), but it’s gotten hard for anybody with a decent job to get financial assistance. Yes, I know in some of your dream worlds, we should all have saved up for our kids’ college since the day they were born and pay cash – and believe me, I wish I would have. But, we didn’t. So it sounds to me like some of you are saying that since she’s a “C” student, my daughter should go to work at 18, and skip out on being a teacher because she’s not academically qualified. However, her goofy little friend with the 3.8 can go to college and maybe get an English degree (which I have, by the way – people with English degrees can actually add value to the economy), or maybe drop out after her freshman year. I totally agree that the Hope should be paid back if the student doesn’t earn a degree. I think there could be a requirement about them working in Georgia for a period of time after their graduation . . . I think that GPA ought to be weighted for course difficulty, and I have no problem with ACT or SAT being a factor (my daughter hasn’t taken either of these tests yet – she’s a junior in HS). I think the Hope ought to be reduced by grants and scholarships – nobody should be getting paid to go to college, at least not with Hope money. I’m fine with no Hope for private schools. I agree more controls should be in place to make sure the right amount of money is going to scholarships and not to administration of the program – the bonuses are ridiculous. How can you get a bonus if you’ve run your program out of money? Bottom line – would like to see it fixed and hope we can get that 2.9 up in time if it’s still around next year. She’ll have to do it with some hard work since I can’t just slip her teacher a $20….


January 4th, 2011
10:26 am

Keep and expand the Pre-K! That is more important than funding college educations.

Call it like it is

January 4th, 2011
12:54 pm

Hmmmm How about we pull the reins back on the schools themselves?? Anybody check out the campus of Kennesaw since the Hope scam started up?
They are now triple the size.
Triple the tution
Parking fees applied no matter if you even have a car
Student fees
Athletic fees
300% markup on text books.

Its pretty easy to see where hope money has gone. Its gone into the pockets of school administrators. If you want to make cuts, make them at the source of the problem, the colleges themselves.


January 4th, 2011
3:40 pm

Getting rid of pre k makes more sense than taking away college opportunities.

Darleen Prem

January 8th, 2011
9:21 am

My son is in the graduating class of 2012. They have tortured them with this complete ridiculous NEW ciricculm by telling them it will help them with college. What college? Oh, they mean the rich kids? As usual, keep poverty perpetuation, and move on the kids who have parents with money. I don’t know why this is a discussion, simply reduce the payout and put the rest into HOPE. And do away with PreK, afterall, unless there parents are rich they aren’t going to go to college anyway, so who cares if a 4 year old can spell CAT.