After the Legislature approved reductions to the HOPE Scholarship this session, a father asked me what he could do to minimize the financial loss since his child only had a few courses to go to graduate. My suggestion was that the student consider summer courses that would be under the old HOPE rules, which would mean full reimbursement.
I am not sure if the dad took my advice, but apparently other people came to the same conclusion as the AJC is reporting a possible spike in summer enrollment at the state colleges.
Beginning in August, the scholarship will provide less money to all but the highest-performing students.
The change means Boone would need a loan to pay for fall semester. Instead, he’s taking a full load of classes this summer, while HOPE still covers all tuition, so he can graduate early and most importantly, without any debt.
Across the state, some students, such as Boone, are rushing to get as many credits as they can during the final days of full HOPE. While final numbers won’t be in for months, colleges are seeing a modest uptick in summer school enrollment.
As of last week, Georgia Southern University reported a summer enrollment increase of more than 5 percent, and Southern Polytechnic State University is up by more than 4 percent. Georgia Tech is up by about 1.5 percent, and Kennesaw State University reported a 1 percent increase.
Boone said summer classes “just made the most sense.” If he was in school this fall, he would have faced a nearly $500 shortfall between the scholarship and his semester tuition.
“I started college thinking I would graduate debt-free because of HOPE, and this is the only way I can make that happen,” said Boone, who is majoring in finance and marketing.
Students with at least a 3.0 GPA saw HOPE pay for all tuition and provide some money for books and fees. But lawmakers revised the scholarship to keep the Georgia Lottery-funded program stable instead of allowing it to run out of money.
Starting this fall, it will pay full tuition for only about 10 percent of recipients. The rest will receive scholarships that cover 90 percent of the 2010-11 academic year tuition rates — not the increased 2011-12 academic year rates.
Georgia State University student Daniella Bass usually takes one class each summer to stay on top of her double major in sociology and political science. This summer, because of the HOPE changes, she’s taking three.
“This is the cheapest option for me, but this is not the easiest way to get your credits,” she said. “I fear I’m not going to get as much out of my classes.”
Professors and students cram a semester’s worth of learning into just a few weeks during summer sessions. Professors teach at a faster pace and students have less time to learn the material, Bass said.
About 30 percent of the students in the University System of Georgia receive the scholarship.
“I don’t want to make this sound like it’s all about me, because there are a lot of students who are in the same position,” said Bass, “but when you’re paying for college, every penny really counts.
“We’re going to miss what HOPE provided, not just tuition, but the other money, too.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog