Proposed HOPE changes: Income cap of $140,000 on eligible families, eliminate SAT for full HOPE

Efforts are under way by Democratic legislators to tweak the beleaguered HOPE Scholarship again this year, including a proposal to restore an income cap on students eligible for the merit-based aid.

HOPE began with an income cap, but it was abandoned over time, and there will be great resistance to restoring it, even if the cap is as high as $140,000. (It will be noted in debate that such a high income cap will mean that most of the state’s students will qualify.)

The AJC has a news story on the proposed changes. (If you are around today, the state House and Senate higher education committees scheduled a joint meeting at 3 p.m. to discuss HOPE and the impact of last year’s reform. Come early as it will be packed.)

Here are the bills:

Senate Bill 336 would reinstate a cap on family income for students to be eligible for HOPE, starting at $140,000 per family. A cap existed when the program began, but was quickly lifted after the lottery proved financially successful.

Senate Bill 335 would erase a new 3.0 GPA requirement for technical college students receiving grant money through the HOPE program. The technical grants are different from the scholarship and tend to benefit students who are older and likely supporting families of their own.

Senate Bill 334 would eliminate an SAT requirement for the state’s new Zell Miller program, which was launched last year by Gov. Nathan Deal to provide full tuition to the state’s highest-achieving students. Instead, graduating seniors in the top 3 percent of every high school in Georgia would automatically qualify.

Senate Resolution 722 would put to public vote a proposal to add a student representative to the state Board of Regents, which oversees the University System of Georgia and sets tuition.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

34 comments Add your comment


January 24th, 2012
11:25 pm

I would rather see the entire HOPE scholarship go away instead of making it another entitlement program.

Cherine Foutch

January 25th, 2012
5:04 am

HOPE stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally. A merit scholarship should be based on merit, not need. So if a family chose to have one parent stay at home while kids were young, basically giving up retirement and college savings, and then go back to work to a good paying job there is no need. While this is a choice that the family made, why would their child earning a 3.7 + be less deserving than a child of a family making less money? There are so many scholarships based on need, and not enough based on merit. Why not change the cut off for qualification based on merit? 3.3? What about forgivable loans to students who finish? There is so much money spent on students who fail in the first year and it has nothing to do with their parents income.



January 25th, 2012
5:23 am

Wht drop the SAT? It is more objective than the top 3%. What if
The top 10% at one school is higher achieving than the number student at another school? This concept puts magnet schools at a disadvantage.


January 25th, 2012
6:11 am

Do any of the proposed bills provide any accountability for the Georgia Lottery Corporation?

The entire premise of the lottery was providing money for education, and the GLC has consistently failed to provide the promised percentage of profits.

Where’s the accountability here? I bet if they told them they could do what they promised, or another company would be found to run the lottery, things might change.

mountain man

January 25th, 2012
6:33 am

Instead of dropping the SAT requirement for full hope, they should be ADDING a SAT requirement for regular HOPE. Also, they should make it a fixed sum so that full tuition is paid for the cheaper schools but not for the big universities that keep hiking their tuitions every year. Also, Maureen, you need to go back and research what the State support to public colleges was before HOPE and what it is now. I think you will find that the State has drastically cut their contribution, expecting HOPE to make up for it. THAT wasn’t supposed to happen, either. It happened in other states, namely Florida, and they DID NOT want it to happen here.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

January 25th, 2012
7:52 am

Tying HOPE to income is an unfortunate idea. Many outstanding GA students–including those of means–have opted to stay in-state rather than leave for college because of HOPE. They can afford to go many places, but because of HOPE, they stayed here. Tie it to income, and many of those kids leave the state.

library volunteer

January 25th, 2012
8:45 am

I don’t see what the fuss is about. According to Georgia Tech’s website, the freshman cost of attendance is $21,098, of which $7,282 is tuition. Tuition is only 35% of the cost to attend, leaving $13,816 left to finance. At those levels, why does another $1,000 or so matter? It certainly isn’t about free education or not free education.


January 25th, 2012
8:48 am

Put that cap on and watch my kids leave Georgia… probably for good. It’s just now worth staying in state when my kids have grades that will give them in state tuition at better state universities and private colleges elsewhere. Won’t be leaving before I vote though.

Georgia needs its high income families and their “oh so vile” children to stay in Georgia. Who creates the jobs around here?

UGA will be back to third rate within a decade if an income cap is placed on HOPE.


January 25th, 2012
8:51 am

Perhaps one good thing about the income cap is that children who have parents with means will be taking much harder classes because they will no longer be the slightest bit concerned about keeping a 3.7 or whatever the requirement becomes. They can focus on getting a stellar education instead of maintaining a certain grade point average…. and look forward to taking their knowledge to a more interesting state.

Colleges know that rigor is more important that GPA in determining whether a student is prepared for college.

Go Dawgs.

Teacher Reader

January 25th, 2012
10:04 am

The actual problem with HOPE is not being addressed. We have more kids qualifying for HOPE that need remedial classes. Grades are given and not earned, as teachers need to make parents happy and children eligible for the HOPE scholarship. Tying HOPE to a parent’s income is taking away a college source for all children to work towards.

Here are more reasonable ways to use this HOPE money to fund education:
1. If you need remedial classes than you don’t get HOPE. (This would require school districts to raise the standards of achievement instead of constantly lowering it.)
2. You don’t receive HOPE until you’ve earned X gpa in college and you must go full time. No taking a class here and there. You have four years (five depending on the major) to use HOPE or it’s lost.
3. Along with a high school GPA, add an SAT/ACT minimum score. This will help weed out those that haven’t worked as hard in school, and will also have parents wanting a better education for their children, instead of just focusing on the GPA.

As my husband and I have talked about colleges in Georgia, Tech and UGA are the only public universities that we’d be willing to pay for, and that is contingent on how they continue to rank as my son nears college age. Really doesn’t make sense for kids not to look outside of Georgia for college if they’ve worked hard in high school, as they are likely to get just as good of a deal as HOPE if not better and most likely a better education.

The politicians want to play the haves and have nots game, and not tackle the real issues of the lack of rigor and student achievement in many of our local public schools. We can’t keep dumbing down the education that our children receive if we want our society to continue to be innovative and develop new ideas. If we want to make useful idiots, than our local public schools are on the right track, as our children are constantly having education dumbed down and it’s just what the government really wants.

Brent Stockdale

January 25th, 2012
10:36 am

Grade inflation and the overall lack of real, incremental achievement in education as a whole, is the death knell for the HOPE program for aspiring college students. Remedial studies for recent high school graduates are indicative of a failed public education model. It is time to face the facts, most public educators and their pupils have been done a great disservice through the proliferation of Dewey’s humanistic teaching models. Teachers have lost control of the process and found their hands tied and mouths taped shut when it comes to being real with students, their myopic parents, and administrators drunk on six figure tax supported salaries. I suggest that we get rid of Federal funding and its perpetual model of extortion and redesign a public education model that is managed at the state and local level. I also suggest designing a system that introduces the concept of total accountability at the face to face classroom level for students AND parents. Making Georgia Education the envy of every state in the union is up to Georgians – not Beltway Bureaucrats.


January 25th, 2012
10:50 am

If an income cap is put on the HOPE scholarship then there needs to be one put on the pre-k program. Four-year-olds are the legal responsibility of parents. Parents are not legally responsible for 18-year-olds; therefore they are not legally required to provide anything for an 18 year old child, including college.


January 25th, 2012
10:55 am

I also have a question about the 3%. Does anybody know if this bill mean that students with a 3.7 HOPE GPA plus students in the top 3% of their class would be Zell Miller Scholars or is it only the top 3%?

Really amazed

January 25th, 2012
11:36 am

What about private schools that don’t rank students??? Just about all of them are taking at least 5 to 6 ap classes by the end of senior year. No grade inflation. Truly high rigor of classes. Guess we should send our private school students back to public to take those top 3% spots. Forget about having your student truly challenge his/herself. Stop taking those challenging classes, go get your grade inflated and dumb yourself down. You will then qualify for the HOPE scholarship. Yippy!!! Just keep a 3.0 and mom and dad stop working so you can show less than, $140,000 a yr. Let’s all depend on the gov’t this is they new way to live!!! What a great lesson to teach all of our children. The gov’t will take care of you. Stop working soooo hard!

Really amazed

January 25th, 2012
12:11 pm

Also, what about homeschool students???? I guess this is how the gov’t plans on getting private school and homeschool students back in the gov’t public schools. ALL depend on the GOV’T.


January 25th, 2012
12:25 pm

Are they serious? My child is currently at Tech as a Zell Miller Scholar. She took many AP courses, plus one actual college course in high school and had a 1500 math/reading SAT. Because she attended one of the top high schools in the state, she was not in the top 3%. So with what they are proposing, a student like this would not automatically qualify?? This scholarship is supposed to be a MERIT based scholarship for the BEST students so they stay in state. Unbelievable.

Atlanta Mom

January 25th, 2012
12:35 pm

I wouldn’t be so confident that your private school kids are going to be in the top 3% in the public schools. Once again, public schools educate all. There are plenty of bright kids in public schools.

Really amazed

January 25th, 2012
12:43 pm

@Atlanta Mom, that wasn’t my point!!!! @NorthMetro mom, more my point!!!!! Atlanta Mom, I never said that their weren’t brights students in public schools!!!! Don’t be so defensive.


January 25th, 2012
2:38 pm

I know that school and education has changed in the last 40 years…..but there is one thing I do know, if a student who is academically sound and is taking college prep courses with a gpa of 3.5 or better his or her SAT/ACT score will reflect that. If you are just taking courses to get by or as some would say easy courses to get a 3.0 your chances of passing the SAT/ACT are pretty dismal. After all you have to know more than basic math or english to pass these entrance exams.

Georgia Tech Grad

January 25th, 2012
2:38 pm

What boneheads! Removing the SAT requirement is the dumbest thing I’ve heard… today. If they’re worried about having too many qualified HOPE recipients, RAISE the SAT requirement and get rid of the GPA minimum (since some schools pad that).

Also, make the dang HOPE a REIMBURSEMENT award to the previous semester’s expenses and only to NON-remedial courses. This will cut down on money wasted on the non-serious students.

A reinstatement of the income cap is another dumb idea. All you’re doing is hurting the middle class. Most families with deep pockets that I know have been bypassing HOPE all along and sending their kids elsewhere. Less hassle.

Wish our legislators would get a clue, but that would be wishing for too much.


January 25th, 2012
2:50 pm

Jeez, can the idiots sitting under the Gold Dome get this any more wrong?

First, require that the Lottery Corporation return the full amount to the HOPE program every year. No exceptions, no excuses.

Second, make the HOPE reimbursement-based, either by semester or by year.

Third, require the Legislature to cap all aggregate college cost (tuition/room/board/fees) increases at the rate of inflation. This will mean that the Sold Domers cannot continue to pay off their sponsors through starving the education budget and winking at the huge compensatory increases the Regents put in place.

Fourth, add a minimum SAT/ACT for all awards at a realistic level of mastery – say 1200 (M/V) for the SAT and perhaps a 28 for the ACT.

Fifth, put an income cap in place for pre-K eligibility. Gail above is absolutely right – four year olds are their parents’ legal responsibility, eighteen year olds are not.

Finally, put a mandatory sunset provision on all “fees” charged by the University System and insist that the Regents explore mandatory means by which to control the cost of books. My daughter at UGA just spent $350 on a genetics book which is no different from previous editions except for the pagination. The professor required that the latest edition be purchased; one year back would have saved more than $200 and provided the same information. The North Carolina Regents have a voluntary program under which the universities can opt to buy hardback books and charge a set rental fee to students; professors must justify changes to editions to a departmental panel. This kind of program would save every Georgia students hundreds of dollars every semester.

The Deal

January 25th, 2012
3:16 pm

Shar – 100% agree with everything you said!

Whoever came up with eliminating the SAT requirement and basing it on top 3% needs to go back to elementary school math! Yes, let’s definitely encourage our kids to get great grades in average classes instead of good grades in great classes.


January 25th, 2012
3:26 pm

@Gail I am waiting for the eighteen year olds to chime in , after all it is a discussion about them.


January 25th, 2012
4:19 pm

Keep the SAT requirements & strong accountability on the student end of the equation. But on the other side of the equation have Lottery Corp hand over 1/3 to HOPE as originally intended (by law) OR do away with the GA Lottery completely. Of course, there won’t be any legislator or lobbyist working to close this Pandora’s Box as they revel in the money lining pockets.

EC Mom

January 25th, 2012
4:21 pm

An income cap on HOPE but not pre-K? That makes no sense. Parents must provide adequate care for four year olds, but they are not required to provide a college education. There are families with incomes of $140,000+ who do not manage their money well. They may not have the extra money to pay for college. That is not the fault of their children. Students should not miss out on HOPE because of parental income. Besides, as pointed out in the article, most kids will still qualify for HOPE with a cap that high, so what exactly is the point of doing this? I suppose it is a lot easier to target the high income families than deal with some high schools churning out 3.0 students who would struggle to make Cs at better schools.

They should be adding a minimum SAT score for all HOPE recipients to hedge against grade inflation, not removing the one in place. I don’t agree with the top 3% criteria, either, since some schools have many more high performing students competing for the top 3% than others. I am hoping more every day that my children will have affordable opportunities to go to college outside the state of Georgia, even if it costs more than staying in state with a HOPE scholarship (which we would still qualify for with a $140k income cap).

North Ave Trade School

January 25th, 2012
4:27 pm

Anyone mentioning how to deal with the increased adminstration cost and lower payout. Seems that is a bigger issue. So a family with a combined 141k has to come up with $ each year but a family making 138k a year slides right in. This could only seem fair to a democrat.


January 25th, 2012
5:43 pm

Could the Hope Scholarship be structured in a way so it would pay out after the student graduates? In other words you basically pay your own way or receive 0% interest loans that are not due until after graduation. If you actually graduate Hope pays the bill if not you better get busy and pay your own debt.


January 25th, 2012
7:00 pm

The easiest way to put a stop to all this corruption, lies, stealing, law changes, etc. is for all the desperate folks to stop wasting their money on the lottery! Take all that wasted money every day on lotto tickets and start a business and make your own money instead of trying to pin your hopes on a rigged picking of numbers every night on tv.

Atlanta mom

January 25th, 2012
8:28 pm

Sorry I misinterpreted your statement “Guess we should send our private school students back to public to take those top 3% spots”


January 26th, 2012
6:19 pm

Agree with SHAR…in addition…make all HOPE for students reimbursement type grants. The student pays up front for the full semester cost…once grades come out at the end of the semester those with 3.0 and higher are reimbursed by HOPE (higher GPA = higher reimbursement). Student signs up and pays for the next quarter….don’t make the 3.0….no reimbursement.

Alpharetta mom

January 27th, 2012
8:58 am

My combined income is $142k, I have a student loan I am paying off for myself for my graduate degree. I have 2 children one is 2 years away from College. She has pushed her whole life for top grades for the hope scholarship. For her it was her goal. I can’t afford to pay $200k in tuition (between 2 children). I had all of my hope in the “hope”. Just another way to make georgian’s poorer. And yet another way to punish us Middle class. Too bad there are no jobs in georgia. You can bet that my money will no longer go to the lottery if these changes go in affect.

Gwinnett Mom

January 27th, 2012
1:20 pm

Shar & COPE with HOPE –

The one problem with a reimbursement solution would be the people who can’t afford to pay the outrageous college tuition costs up front and either couldn’t or wouldn’t take out loans to pre-pay what HOPE would likely reimburse them later.

The one way something like that might would maybe be if HOPE paid a certain amount up front and the remainder was reimbursed after grades come out so that people would have less out of pocket but still be incentivized.


January 27th, 2012
3:24 pm

HOPE should be merit based, but on a sliding scale. Not every teen scores well testing, while others underperform in the classroom. My son scored a 30 on the ACT, but graduated with a 3.5 gpa. He went out of state (Miss State) because with scholarships and cheaper housing (the real expense of college), it was less expensive at MSU than having the HOPE in state at UGA. One of my daughters has a learning disability, and only scored a 21 on the ACT, but carries a 3.8 gpa. She has earned her gpa by working twice as hard as her twin sister, who doesn’t have to work as hard at her grades, and carries a lower gpa. She takes about half of her courses at the honors level. So some of you are saying punish her because she doesn’t score as well on the SAT or ACT, but a strictly merit based HOPE on test scores doesn’t take into account her will and drive to succeed.
By the way, my wife and I make just over $140K, and will have 3 in college starting next year, how does the cap the democrats are proposing work in this scenario? Is it per kid or household? Can someone provide more details? The AJC is providing skeletal details at best.


January 28th, 2012
2:06 pm

To all those opposed, take the time to sign this petition–
DONT let the government continue to decrease the value of hard work.