Gov. Deal responds to concerns about HOPE Grant and lowers GPA requirement to 2.0

Gov. Nathan Deal has apparently heard some of the protests about the changes he made two years ago to HOPE, reversing his decision to require that even students going to the state’s technical colleges on HOPE Grants also have a 3.0 GPA.

The AJC reported that nearly 9,000 technical college students lost the award last year because they couldn’t meet the higher standard. Ron Jackson, the commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia, told legislators last month that thousands of other students dropped out of the technical colleges or didn’t enroll because they couldn’t afford to pay what HOPE no longer covered.

The system’s enrollment dropped by about 24,500 students to 170,860 last year. Historically, nearly 75 percent of technical college students receive HOPE.

The change needs the Legislature’s approval, but has bi-partisan support and is expected to pass.

Now, the question is: Will Deal respond to complaints about how few rural students are getting the Zell Miller Scholarship, which is the highest paying tier of HOPE and limited to high school graduates with high GPAs and SATs?

From the governor’s office:

Gov. Nathan Deal, along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, House Speaker David Ralston and state Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna, announced today a proposal that will lower to its original level the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant, which goes to students in the technical college system. By expanding access to the HOPE Grant, the governor and legislators aim to strengthen the state’s workforce development efforts.

“After talking with many members of the General Assembly and crunching the numbers at our budget office, I’m glad to report that we’ll be able to lower the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant back to 2.0 after raising it to 3.0 for budgetary reasons two years ago,” Deal said. “I believe this additional benefit will help Georgia families trying to get ahead and will boost the state’s ability to attract and fill high-skilled jobs.

“With an estimated cost between $5 million and $8 million, we believe this will provide greater access to school – and access to a brighter career – at a relatively small cost to the state.”

Current law requires a GPA of 3.0 to obtain the HOPE Grant for technical schools. The change to a 2.0 GPA will require legislative action for implementation.

Since the needed HOPE reforms were implemented when Deal first took office, there has been a decline in enrollment in the technical school system and in the University System. But the state has seen a disproportionate drop in the technical school system. For some students enrolled in the system, the loss of scholarship money put higher education out of reach. This new bipartisan effort is one way Deal intends to remedy the problem.

“I’m proud to stand here with a bipartisan group of Georgia leaders committed to helping all Georgians attain a higher education degree,” he said. “I look forward to working on this issue with Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. In the chambers, of course, I work through my floor leaders, but I’m happy to say they’ll be working with Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna who has worked with me on this issue.”

The state is able to expand funds for the HOPE Grants because of recent growth in Lottery revenues. In the first six months of this fiscal year, deposits were up $32 million, a 7.6 percent increase over the same period the year before.

In addition to the proposed change to the GPA requirement for technical colleges, Deal announced plans to attach language to move higher education funding in Georgia from an enrollment-based formula to an outcomes-based formula, as recommended by the Higher Education Funding Commission. (See report here.)

“Increasing the numbers of grant recipients does no one any good if the student doesn’t finish with a degree,” said Deal. “Put simply, we need more Georgians with college or technical school degrees in order to attract the jobs of tomorrow to our state.”

Deal previously announced that his recommended budget for fiscal year 2014 includes 10 extra days for Pre-K, which restores the full 180-day school year, and a 3 percent increase for HOPE recipients. When Deal took office two years ago, the reserves funds for the HOPE and Pre-K programs were on the path to bankruptcy. Because of courageous action by the governor and the General Assembly, including both Republicans and Democrats, the state has stabilized Lottery-funded programs and is now adding back to the programs as funds allow.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

53 comments Add your comment

teacher/coach

February 7th, 2013
12:56 pm

Yeah, no sense rewarding kids that made a B in high school. “It’s not fair, waaaaaaaaaaaa”.

A monkey could make a C in Georgia’s public high schools.

Hell, some counties frown on failing kids and let them retake tests multiple times, do recovery work, etc. to avoid them failing. Because as we know it’s the teachers fault when the kid fails.

agent

February 7th, 2013
1:22 pm

A 2.0? Really? I have an idea, let’s make anyone who can successfully spell their name within 3 tries eligible for the HOPE. We all know why he’s doing this.

Scott

February 7th, 2013
1:23 pm

This change will really help. Technical colleges serve as access colleges for working adults and borderline students who may not have the grades to be accepted at a 4-year institution. The 3.0 requirement, while quite reasonable (and probably not stringent enough) in other contexts, doesn’t make as much sense for these students.

Centrist

February 7th, 2013
1:24 pm

Legitimate affordable change. From the AJC article: “The average age for a technical college student is 26, and many are in their 40s. They’ve been out of high school for so long that it’s harder for them to maintain higher grades – last month [Deal] proposed spending $6.5 million to provide extra financial support to students who pursue technical college degrees in practical nursing, commercial truck driving, and early childhood care and education. Those areas face workforce shortages, and Deal has said the move puts ‘money where the jobs are’.”

This proposed change will certainly not satisfy many liberals who want to change Hope from merit to a means tested entitlement, though.

Inman Parker

February 7th, 2013
1:25 pm

Makes you wonder how well “teacher/coach” did in high school.

Pluto

February 7th, 2013
1:31 pm

Why not make HOPE an official state entitlement and just give it to anyone that can complete an application for free monies? This has really gotten ridiculous, you can’t sell enough lottery tickets.

GrassNotGreener

February 7th, 2013
1:32 pm

So, I guess if you’re 26, working full-time, taking care of a family, and attending one of the academic two or four-year colleges, you don’t deserve the same consideration. How can the claim be made that tech school students should receive this money with only a 2.0 as opposed to students who are in the exact same situation in the University System?

sogaman

February 7th, 2013
1:39 pm

I used HOPE at Albany Technical College and I contribute every Saturday. I learned a great deal, such as 50% of the students are there only for the money. Most drop out during the semester when the money runs out. The college also teaches outdated courses, and does not teach courses that are needed in manufacturing. We need more skilled workers who can operate a CAD and tool and die machines. These jobs pay $45k and up. This is where our education dollars should be going. Deal’s plan is good if this happens.

JF McNamara

February 7th, 2013
1:47 pm

In two years, the law will be loosened to match the way it had worked for years coming completely full circle…

Centrist

February 7th, 2013
1:50 pm

@ GrassNotGreener – The thinking here is that training unskilled/less skilled workers (and the unemployed) for jobs in needed areas is a worthwhile State endeavor as opposed to helping marginal 4 year college students.

I’d have no problem if some 4 year majors deemed critical were given Hope precedence over those majors where their are an overabundance of graduates.

FarTrain

February 7th, 2013
1:54 pm

You lower the standards, you lower the product itself. I think we all know what this is really all about anyway, now don’t we?

Centrist

February 7th, 2013
1:54 pm

Fix my above (”there” instead of “their”)

catlady

February 7th, 2013
1:58 pm

I am concerned about the Governor trying to “social engineer” to supply anticipated needs. We know he did such a good job anticipating things in the past (such as the usefulness of having a high end sports store in the middle of nowhere.)

Private Citizen

February 7th, 2013
2:13 pm

Grade point averages, “proficiency” and such are overrated. Autonomously funding for higher ed is a good thing. Strange that it has to come from state coordinated lottery money. I’d rather have private casinos with food and entertainment and tax them for revenue. It would be a higher quality gaming experience than people “scratching off” tickets in the corners of convenience stores. Hey, if someone wants to mandate casinos, I can (likely) assemble investment from a group of business people in the state who would interested. No problem.

Maude

February 7th, 2013
2:23 pm

I can’t believe that the colleges are taking 2.0 GPA!! The fact that now Deal wants them to also go to college for free is a JOKE!!!!!

Flabberghastedforsure

February 7th, 2013
2:41 pm

Seriously? 2.0? Here goes GA again dumbing down education – lower the cut rates, lower the GPA, etc, etc. How about the Governor lower k12 class sizes, increase teacher salaries, and restore education funding so teachers can prepare our students for the rigor of college? And parents, we all need to step up to the plate and hold our students accountable for their work. Don’t bail them out when they don’t do their work and don’t blame the schoolhouse for poor grades or holding them back.

bootney farnsworth

February 7th, 2013
2:52 pm

so instead of creating a surplus to help ensure HOPEs long term viability, Deal opens the floodgates again.

is he up for re-election next year?

Roach

February 7th, 2013
3:02 pm

Think of it the other way. If you make good grades, you can go to college, where the product and ultimate benefits may be much less certain. If you can’t make those higher grades, we’ll send you to technical school, where you can learn to be an electrician, mechanic or welder. We know Georgia needs lots of those, so we are pretty sure that as a graduate you will help move the state economy forward and will be better positioned to take care of your family. But if you want to go to college and major in navel-gazing, let’s see the grades.

Roach

February 7th, 2013
3:06 pm

That said, “older, working, with a family” sounds a lot like Georgia State’s student body. C’mon, Shady, you need better writers.

Monica

February 7th, 2013
3:07 pm

The HOPE Grant does not pay for a bachelor’s degree; it pays for licensure or certification programs (like a CNA or EMT). The kids in school who don’t excel in the traditional classroom typically thrive in the technical realm. The 2.0 GPA is a reasonable requirement.

Centrist

February 7th, 2013
3:11 pm

@ bootney – Hardly floodgates. Technical school enrollment dropped more than anticipated by about 24,500 students, and this is a fix. “With an estimated cost between $5 million and $8 million, we believe this will provide greater access to school – and access to a brighter career – at a relatively small cost to the state.” Just the administration budget for Hope is about the same, and is about 1%.

Mattie

February 7th, 2013
3:13 pm

Colleges are not included in the 2.0 Hope grant people. Try reading the article carefully.

I think the bar is still set too low. To get a 2.0 gpa you pretty much show up for class. I think the high schools should reintroduce some of the technical classes they have done away with over the years, and if a student averages at least a 2.5, then give them the grant money for a technical college. The way this plan reads now, there is no way of knowing if the student will have any aptitude for tech classes.

D

February 7th, 2013
3:21 pm

This is a move to fight unemployment, the state numbers will improve as kids leaving high school will not be dumped on a poor market looking for work. This gives options for the kids and the state doesnt immediately gain 10s of thousands of new job seekers every spring

Lee

February 7th, 2013
3:23 pm

Good grief, did anyone read the article? You know, the part about enrollment at technical schools dropping by almost 25,000?

No, a 2.0 GPA isn’t going to get you into any colleges, except for a community college. But, that student can go to a technical school and learn how to be a certified welder, which, by the way, makes pretty dang good money. A boilermaker, which is a welder certified for high pressure steam piping, averages about $60k according to the BLS. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_12060.htm#47-0000

Yet again, I wish they would make HOPE a Reimbursement program. Solve of lot of problems, IMHO.

Centrist

February 7th, 2013
3:37 pm

From the article:

“The state has stabilized Lottery-funded programs and is now adding back to the programs as funds allow. The state is able to expand funds for the HOPE Grants because of recent growth in Lottery revenues. In the first six months of this fiscal year, deposits were up $32 million, a 7.6 percent increase over the same period the year before.”

Reserves are building from the near bankruptcy, but there will be lots of calls to oversubscribe the plan again.

Astropig

February 7th, 2013
3:40 pm

I’m not really surprised at the elitism and arrogance among the “educators” on this board (You know who you are-the self important pseudointellectuals that drive your SUV’s with the “educator” plates). The article clearly states that this is a reform aimed at the technical school students in Georgia.You know, the ones that you gave up on a few years back? The ones that have a modicum of ambition to go back and undo your shoddy work? The tech colleges are doing the lords work with these people and giving them a punchers chance at a middle class life and all you can do is run them doqn

Idiots.

Astropig

February 7th, 2013
3:40 pm

Anne

February 7th, 2013
4:02 pm

How about decreasing the high salary of the lottery president (@$500K annual) and all other lottery “State” employees! Maybe there would be enough money left over to pay for tuition for students who can maintain a 3.0 GPA. I personally do not participate in the lottery because it does not operate as the initial rules said it would. DO NOT BUY LOTTERY TICKETS if you don’t like the operation!!!!!

Olivia

February 7th, 2013
4:29 pm

My son graduated from Griffin Tech. He now repairs your heating/AC. Guess who’s making almost six figures a year?

Really amazed

February 7th, 2013
6:13 pm

Let’s make it really fair and say that 2.0 is required for ANY college!!!!! Why should the students at the top colleges, UGA and GT have to maintain a 3.2 when college tech students only need to maintain 2.0. This will make more feel like…what is the point for me to excel and bust my behind, when I can still go to a tech college and make sometimes more than I would have as a teacher at a regular college. I kind of understand wanting students to stay in college but make them earn it!!!!

Really amazed

February 7th, 2013
6:25 pm

This will make more high school students to not even bother trying to maintain a 3.0 when all they have to do is achieve a 2.0. Well, maybe teachers will stop inflating grades now that the 3.0 is no longer required. More students will just strive for tech college. I am not saying that their is anything wrong with that. I even know many, including myself that didn’t complete four year of college making much more than several people I know that went to college for degrees that aren’t even pulling in $80,000 after 10 years. I just don’t like GA dumbing down themselves.

dale

February 7th, 2013
9:16 pm

Has anyone had a child suffering from ADHD that is busting butt to attend a Tech School and is learning to better themselves? Well, we have but to keep a 3.o is just a little out of his reach but he tries. To put to pen is very hard but he can litterly talk your socks off about the subject. GO MR> DEAL!!!!!!!!

Prof

February 7th, 2013
9:53 pm

I strongly support Governor Deal’s proposal here AND the Democratic proposal to offer the full HOPE scholarship to the top 3% of class, for taken together I think they would enable HOPE to become far more egalitarian for all Georgians. Why can’t this be a bipartisan effort to improve HOPE, instead of the political oneupmanship that I suspect is going on here?

Ole Guy

February 8th, 2013
12:59 am

Yet another example of our leadership’s insistence on celebrating mediocrity…does the Honorable Deal understand that a two-oh signifies nothing short of average. Does our leadership, in futuristic views of global competitiveness, wish to supply the economies of the 21st century with…average skill levels? I am quite certain there are many countries; many cultures which are more than willing to supply only the best…(and we scoff at the notion of “them feriners” stealing OUR jobs…what a crock o’_hit).

Mary Sue

February 8th, 2013
6:44 am

It’s not colleges accepting 2.0 GPAs it’s technical schools. These kids may be quite gifted in working on cars, fixing things, working with their hands, but not good at traditional school subjects. Technical schools teach these technical skills these kids are good at, so they can get a job. Not the same thing as all as a kid going to a university. I am all in favor of the 2.0 GPA for technical schools. We need people trained to do these important jobs. Your typical 3.0+ kid is not going to go to a technical school.

Maude

February 8th, 2013
7:44 am

I think the way a person works in school will be a reflection of how they will work on the job in the real world. If a person is unwilling to work hard in school to make good grades, what makes anyone think they will work hard after more free education! Anyone except people with very low IQ’s can make a 3.0 in high school if they are willing to work for it. By allowing students to play in high school but still expect more free education if like paying for thier party. I would like to see how many of the students with a 2.0 GPA will really go on to be an effective worker in their trained skill. I would bet not many!

teacher&mom

February 8th, 2013
8:57 am

Someone correct me if I’m wrong….but the Hope Grant ONLY pays for certification programs (welding, construction, CNA, etc) not college classes or associate degrees.

Maureen Downey

February 8th, 2013
9:03 am

@teacher&Mom: From state website:

Georgia’s HOPE Grant (a separate program from the HOPE Scholarship) is available to Georgia residents who are working towards a certificate or diploma (continuing education programs are not eligible) at an eligible college or university in Georgia.

A HOPE Grant recipient is ineligible for the grant if the student has:

Earned a baccalaureate degree; or
Received HOPE Grant payment for more than 63 semester or 95 quarter hours; or
Received payment from any combination of HOPE Scholarship, Zell Miller Scholarship, HOPE Grant, and, through Summer term 2011, Accel Program funds totaling 127 semester (190 quarter) hours of credit, or
Dual Credit Enrollment hours for which a high school student received HOPE Grant payment are not included in these totals.

Really amazed

February 8th, 2013
9:41 am

Funny how in this article they talk about lowering the standard to 2.0 for tech college, then in another article on this blog you will see how students in college wished their teachers and administration were tougher on them!!! Oh the irony!!

Prof

February 8th, 2013
11:24 am

@ Really amazed. What’s so ironic about this? There are two different school populations being discussed here: those going to technical schools to learn a trade, and those going to colleges or universities to receive professional degrees (BAs and up). Completely different goals, completely different student bodies.

Favorite seester

February 8th, 2013
1:48 pm

Just wondering how those who support lowering the GPA for the HOPE Grant will react when they receive mediocre service or goods.

Ole Guy

February 8th, 2013
8:03 pm

Prof, you’re absolutely right…in that we’re talking about two different populations. However, does it make any sense that we should expect anything less than top performance in the school environment…regardless of end goals. To be sure, we want that med student to be at the top of his game when it boils down to performance in the classroom. However, when that doctor hires the kid to repair the good doctor’s HVAC, car, or any service which has it’s origins in a school of trades, the good doctor will (reasonably) expect the technician to also be at the top of his game.

We’re all consumers of some sort of service…do we not become just a bit irritated when we see levels of incompetence within the ranks of those who provide these services? There’s absolutely no reason why anyone should expect less, in the way of professional service, from the plumber, the HVAC guy, the auto tech, the health care technician…or the cardiologist.

Yes, we’re talking about different levels of skill sets, but the proficiency levels within those skill sets should all be the same…TOP SHELF. Anything less simply won’t do.

teacher&mom

February 9th, 2013
7:56 am

@Ole Guy: We are talking about two different populations but do not assume a student entering a tech school with a GPA below 3.0 is somehow deficient (as your 8:03 comments imply) .

Why?

When we did away with the tech prep diploma and went with a one size fits all diploma (Think….everyone takes Math I,II,III,IV), many traditional tech prep students saw their GPA’s slip. Suddenly, a kid who excelled in auto tech is failing because he can’t pass Math IV (a level of math he will never see in his future profession).

I think we can all agree that college is not for everyone, however, everyone needs skills beyond the high school level. If you close the door on technical college door for students who are not top academic achievers (Hope GPA is based solely on grades earned in academic courses not elective courses), you close the door on some really talented kids who have the potential to excel in a trade.

If we close the doors to those students, what is left for them?

Lowering the GPA to 2.0 is smart move that I support.

Ole Guy

February 9th, 2013
8:56 am

Good thoughts, Mom. Maybe it’s my aggressive military background (although I’ve been retired a number of years and have allowed my hair…what’s left of it…to grow to dimensions hitherto unknown), but I don’t believe a kid should limit self to achievements which are not in keeping with maximum potential. The kid may want to be a tradesman today, but who knows where that kid’s goals may point in the future. Even if the kid decides to spend the remaining years of his work life in the trades…an honorable endeavour indeed…his earlier education in the study of advanced disciplines in math and science can NEVER be deemed a waste.

As for abilities…to be sure, we all have our limits. However, I truly feel that kids (people, for that matter), given the motivation, will rise to the challenge of more-advance study. This propensity to “stretch” just a little beyond the comfort zones of capability may have “costs” in terms of, perhaps, “less-glowing” grades, but, like all our daily habits, this willingness to “go the extra mile” in the face of self doubt can and (often) will become a way of life…an attitude which our future leaders, the movers and shakers, will most-suredly need.

mommamonster

February 9th, 2013
10:09 am

As a special education teacher who has seen many of my kids set up for failure I WHOLEHEARTEDLY support Deal’s plan (shocker, I’m a Dem). When we eliminated the Voc/Tech diploma we shut the door in a lot of kids’ faces. Not every kid can/should/wants to go to a 4 year college. And that’s okay! The prevailing attitude that people who don’t go to college are 2nd class citizens is ridiculous! My best friend has a GED and makes twice as much as a medical biller as I do as a teacher! Those of you who say that kids just have to “show up” to make a 2.0 should review the current math curriculum and requirements in GA…I’m 38 and the math my Freshman is taking is what I took in 11th and 12th grade. My 6th grader’s math is what I had in 8th grade! Very few kids are ready for the higher level cognitive skills that are required for this level.

The main point is EVERY kid deserves a real chance for success on THEIR terms…I have 3 or 4 8th graders that I am so worried about. They all have something to offer to our society but will be completely shut out and failed with our current system…It makes me despair for them and there’s nothing I can really do to help…THAT’s why I ever even think about getting out of teaching.

GAOLDEDUCATOR

February 10th, 2013
2:36 pm

How much more can we lower the bar? The HOPE GPA requirement should be raised to at least 3.5 to compensate for all the grade inflation that goes on in our schools today. Students today already have the mentality that they should be given grades for their lack of effort and this will just feed into the entitlement mindset that parents and students currently have towards school and grades.

Prof

February 10th, 2013
5:12 pm

@GAOLDEDUCATOR. The University System of Georgia is a separate system from the Technical Colleges System, and both receive funding from the state legislature. The HOPE Grant for the technical schools is completely different from the HOPE fellowship for the USG schools.

I think that these technical colleges deserve state support just as do the USG schools; and I applaud the bipartisan effort by the Governor and the state legislature to restore HOPE eligibility for these technical college students.

Wondering

February 11th, 2013
11:13 am

Taking someone with marginal academic abilities and teaching them a trade helps all of us. Our K-12 programs focus on preparation for University programs and those not University bound suffer from a lack of preparation for the trades. The Technical Colleges fill this gap by taking these young people and preparing them for life without a college degree. This means learning a trade, and we all benefit.

Trade jobs need to be filled with qualified people. As an example, I like the idea that the person repairing my brakes knows what their doing, and I don’t mind them making a fair wage for it. This change will provide Georgia with a prepared labor force and help those without academic degrees from lining up for unemployment. Not all of our kids are heading for higher educations.

BTW, I haven’t seen any comments here about HB 263. Is anyone concerned with the legislature changing the retirement benefits for teachers and state employees?

Prof

February 11th, 2013
2:06 pm

@ Wondering. I just checked the official website of TRS, http://www.trsga.com, under Legislation. It notes:

“The 2013 Georgia General Assembly will convene on January 14, 2013, and is the first year of the two-year (2013 – 2014) biennium session. Retirement legislation introduced, but not acted on, during previous sessions is no longer valid.

Retirement legislation that has a fiscal impact can only be introduced during the 1st year of a two-year session and can only be acted on during the 2nd year. Therefore, the earliest date that a fiscal piece of legislation introduced during the 2013 session can become effective is July 1, 2014.”

Prof

February 11th, 2013
2:23 pm

@ Wondering. As a follow-up, HB 263 relates to health insurance coverage after retirement, and provides that the retiree pays the entire premium.

”First Reader Summary
A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Subpart 1 of Part 6 of Article 17 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the O.C.G.A., relating to school personnel post-employment health benefit fund, so as to provide that any person who becomes eligible to participate in such fund on or after July 1, 2013, shall pay a premium which reflects the entire cost of such coverage; to prohibit the expenditure of public funds to subsidize the cost of health care; to provide for persons currently eligible; to amend Part 2 of Article 1 of Chapter 18 of Title 45 of the O.C.G.A., relating to the state employees post-employment health benefit fund, so as to provide that any person who becomes eligible to participate in such fund on or after July 1, 2013, shall pay a premium which reflects the entire cost of such coverage; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.”

So it’s just been introduced and is making its way through committees. Putting this together with my 2:06 pm post, I gather that if it does pass it will only go into effect for those who have retired after July 1, 2014.

The TRS website is a good place to keep track of the progress of the latest retirement legislation, whether or not you’re a member of TRS.