I’m not surprised or shocked that only three out of 10 student who start college with the HOPE Scholarship keep it the entire time they’re in school, as reported today by the AJC.
Nor is it unexpected that the University of Georgia boasts the highest rate of retention, with 60.9 percent of the students on the merit-based scholarship maintaining it throughout college. UGA has its pick of the state’s brightest students. I would bet that it also has the state’s most affluent students as academic performance tracks with socio-economics. Children of college graduates outperform children of high school graduates.
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, says it’s “shocking” that only 15.6 percent of the students at Clayton State University with the scholarship kept it through graduation in 2010, and 18.3 percent did so at Southern Polytechnic State University.
“If they can’t keep up the grades in college, what’s going on here?” he asks.
For starters, the students at Clayton and Southern Poly may be working more hours at jobs to finance their education. Students who work a lot of hours — both in high school and college — tend to suffer lower grades as a result. They are more likely to dip below the required 3.0 GPA to earn and keep HOPE.
Research suggests that while working 10 hours a week enhances student performance, putting in 35 hours or more hurts performance. Also, students with full-time jobs are more likely to drop out of school. Yet, in 2000, 830,000 full-time college students also worked full-time.
Just now, I received a release from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA on college affordability in California. The study found that, “Across the board students are found to be working too many hours to keep up with their studies and a huge proportion (30 percent) of those surveyed may abandon their studies and hopes of getting a college degree. The lowest income students are now getting a smaller share of the CSU’s State University Grant than they received in the past and middle-income students need increasingly more aid to keep up with rising costs. ”
There’s also the historic indifference of colleges to their graduation rates. With millions of public dollars wasted on kids who don’t finish college, many states are pushing their colleges to do a better job of helping students graduate. The AJC news story on lost HOPE Scholarships points out that the Regents are now pressuring colleges to boost completion rates.
Few students regain HOPE if they lose it. Of the 24,496 students who entered a University System college in fall 2004 with the scholarship, 10,439 lost it after their first year. Only 972 students regained it the following year.
Recent changes to HOPE eligibility requirements should result in more students holding on to it, because the new rules will give a truer picture of students’ grades, said David Lee, director of strategic research and analysis for the Student Finance Commission, which oversees the scholarship.
Students who graduated from high school before 2007 were allowed to use only their highest grades in English, math, science, social studies and foreign language to determine eligibility. Students may have failed these classes on their first try, but those grades weren’t considered, Lee said. As a result, some students who technically had a 2.0 GPA received the scholarship, he said.
Now all the grades students earned in core courses count when the commission determines eligibility, Lee said. The impact of these changes will be noticed in 2013.
As part of the HOPE overhaul approved this spring, high school students will be required to take specific rigorous courses to be eligible for the scholarship. The requirement, which begins with this fall’s ninth-graders, should make students better prepared for college, lawmakers said.
This fall, HOPE will pay full tuition only for the state’s most accomplished students, about 10 percent of recipients. Others will receive scholarship money to cover 90 percent of current tuition rates — not the new, increased rates for next fall.
– From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog