Time to Face the Music: Addressing the HOPE Scholarship

Maureen Downey has a piece on the HOPE scholarship and how the General Assembly can no longer procrastinate on addressing the shrinking chest. A lot of the problems stem from the General Assembly’s expansion of the HOPE program to cover other programs.

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.
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.

Expect weeping and gnashing of teeth from legislators, students, and parents as tough decisions will have to be made on what and how to cut in order to keep HOPE afloat.


  1. Libertarian Chick says:

    Good Lord, this is not that difficult. Make it a reimbursement plan and be done with it. That would require no more paperwork than is already in place, no more paper pushers than are already in place, and the onus is off the high school teachers to inflate grades (Don’t say it doesn’t happen; it does…a lot).
    I’ll ask again: “Why do politicians feel the need to go around their posteriors to get to their elbows?”

  2. How about for the first 18 years parents set aside all the money they spend on scratch-offs, powerball, trips to the casinos, cigarettes, beer, wine, pedicures, jewelry, spas, and eating out five times per week, then they could pay for their kids college.

    • Jeff says:

      Growing up, my parents COMBINED made roughly what I do by myself now as a second year programmer. They had 3 sons. One of them has graduated college thanks to HOPE (me), the other has attended several classes, and the youngest is about to graduate (as early as May, IIRC) – again, thanks to HOPE.

      My parents never drank, never played the lottery (which is actually paying into the system, in a way, for HOPE), never gambled, never did pedicures, spas, or expensive jewelry, and my mom cooked our meals most nights.

      And yet had it not been for HOPE, I don’t know that I would be a college graduate right now.

      That said, HOPE DOES need reform – dramatically. Of the proposals mentioned so far on this thread, I think raising the GPA requirement (though differentiating for majors, as noted) and making it a reimbursement program would be best. I could also see lowering payout SOMEWHAT, but I don’t think I would be comfortable going any lower than 85%.

      With differentiating majors, I think the BASE should be 3.0 – or maybe even slightly higher – with the easier degrees (the aforementioned English, history, etc) being raised as high as .5 points above the base. Thus, a Computer Engineering major could keep HOPE at 3.0 (or maybe 3.2), while a Sociology major would need a 3.5 (or maybe 3.7). Having seen and experienced the curriculum of both, I think this is more than fair.

      • Libertarian Chick says:

        Jeff, why is one major more important than another? The world needs philosophers, musicians, mathematicians, scientists, and (gasp) teachers to teach them.
        I disagree with quantifying college majors.
        Make it a reimbursement plan. 60% of all students lose the HOPE. They aren’t ready to attend yet. Let them save some money to go the first semester and then get paid back. Seriously, we need to allow for some accountablility on the students parts.

      • “And yet had it not been for HOPE, I don’t know that I would be a college graduate right now.”

        What? You don’t know anyone who worked and borrowed their way through school?

        • Jeff says:

          I worked 2 jobs, was a leader in 2 different campus organizations, had an active role in 2 others, was very active in multiple ministries at my church, AND maintained a full course load (or more!) while hitting President’s and Dean’s lists relatively frequently – and that was with HOPE.

          Like I said – don’t know that I’d be a college graduate right now without it.

          You’re just mad because an “evil Democrat” (who is, like virtually every other Democrat of the time, now a Republican) set it up.

          • Actually, what I’m mad about is having to pay for the medical, heating, housing, and grocery bills of those standing in line to buy scratch-off tickets so you can go to college for free. But I guess the end (your diploma) justifies the means (me paying your college bill).

  3. John Konop says:

    I would hope we all agree the goal of hope is to help students gain skills to create the best work force in Georgia. I do not think anyone can show me a correlation between the highest GPA verse the person becoming a successful worker and or student.

    I would not change the standard. It seems to make more sense to take the money and split up by % for kids who qualify. This would keep the hope alive for more kids and any kid can get a part time job to make up the difference.

    …… Over the last several decades many researchers have tested the relationship between college GPA and various measures of adult achievement. The most common criterion measures include job success in business, teaching, engineering, and medicine as measured by salary level and supervisory ratings. Other, less common measures include social activity, civic participation, cultural interests and general satisfaction.

    Qualitative review of the published literature leads to confusion in stating the true effect of GPA as a predictor of later success. In some cases GPA is positively correlated with success on the job (Harrell, 1969, 1970, 1972; Harrell, Harrell, McIntyre, & Weinburg, 1974) while in other cases significant negative correlations are shown (Pfeffer, 1977; Jepson, 1951).…..


    • ……No, there is NOT a strong correlation between GPA and college success rates or graduation rates. Part of this has to do with grade inflation and the difference in grading expectations at different schools, and much of it has to do with the quality of education and actual preparation for college that you find at various schools……..


  4. Here’s a radical idea – go back to the beginning of HOPE and don’t give it to people whose parents make more than $100k – adjusted for CPI since 1992 that would now be $158,000.

    UGA and Ga Tech are still excellent values to wealthier Georgians, and having these students actually pay the costs would probably help keep excessive increases in check. Right now the most sophisticated consumers don’t actually pay the bill.

    • Three Jack says:

      even more radical chris, go back to the pre-beginning of hope and end it. the only redeeming virtue of the program is it’s unique position as a reverse-redistribution system whereby the poorest among us pay for educating semi-rich suburban kids.

      • John Konop says:

        Three Jack,

        Adam Smith the father of the free market system was a major supporter of public education to make sure we had a qualified work force. If you would turn off talk radio and read you might actually understand the issue.

        ……., Smith outlined the proper expenses of the government in The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Ch. I. Included in his requirements of a government is to enforce contracts and provide justice system, grant patents and copy rights, provide public goods such as infrastructure, provide national defense and regulate banking. It was the role of the government to provide goods “of such a nature that the profit could never repay the expense to any individual” such as roads, bridges, canals, and harbours. He also encouraged invention and new ideas through his patent enforcement and support of infant industry monopolies. he supported public education……..


        • Three Jack says:

          so what john? did adam smith support government operated gambling as a means to fund government education? did adam smith support reverse redistribution as described in my previous post?

          hope is not public education konop. it is a savvy method of reverse redistribution that i highly doubt would be supported by adam smith even using your loose interpretation of his writings.

          and btw, if you are going to c/p wikipedia snippets, at least do so with something relevant to the topic at hand.

          • John Konop says:

            ….reverse-redistribution system whereby the poorest among us pay for educating semi-rich suburban kids….

            The part of your argument that blows up is no one forces anyone to buy a lottery ticket. You may be right that poor people buy tickets at a larger % than the middle class but that is not government mandated it is a choice.

            This is why the system should just split the money up evenly by whoever qualifies not try to eliminate options for kids.

            ….your loose interpretation of his writings….

            Adam Smith support of public education is very clear for anyone who actually reads and does not listen to talk radio for their sole education on issues and history.

            • Three Jack says:

              konop you dodge questions almost as good as drew brees eluded the falcons last night. but in this case, your position is sacked.

  5. LukeSkywalkersTauntaun says:

    I don’t understand why this state feels the need to have such a scholarship, nor do I understand why people complain that they “don’t have the money” to go to college. When I was a college and grad student just a few years ago, the financial aid office literally begged me to apply for more federal money. The Pell Grants and other funds make it easy for someone to go to college if you qualify financially. Here’s the catch, however….you have to pay it back (gasp!), which I did because of the good job I got from doing well in school. My point is that there are already tons of programs out there that will pay for college…why must GA bankrupt itself over this issue?

  6. Gerald says:

    All of this is ridiculous. HOPE is a welfare program like any other, and it was enacted by a Democratic governor acting in concert with a heavily Democratic legislature. HOPE has led to growth in spending, growth in the role of government, and a whole host of unintended fiscal, policy and social consequences, not least of all is grade inflation.

    Small government conservatives should advocate for HOPE to be ended. After getting shellacked by the rise of Nixon and Reagan in the 1970s and 1980s (Jimmy Carter was an aberration due to Watergate), Democrats learned that the way to get back into power was to shift marketing welfare as a tool to uplift blacks and the poor by providing them with things that they needed to being a tool to allow middle and upper class whites to get things that they want without having to sacrifice for it. The difference is that where your typical “ghetto grandmother” (to quote our current governor) was generally ashamed of living on the dole, suburban grandmothers are absolutely convinced that THEIR programs and services are 100% justified, the proper role of government, what makes this country strong, and what we NEED to be doing is finding more ways of cutting programs from THOSE PEOPLE.

    HOPE is for suburbanites is to what Social Security and MediCare is to the over-40 Tea Partiers. HOPE should be ended, and citizens should be encouraged to make contributions (which are already tax-deductible!) into scholarship programs.

    The only thing worse than big government for poor people is big government for middle class and rich people (and for big business). Look, HOPE has only been in place since the mid-90s. Oh, gee, I wonder how all these people sent their kids to college before then? I had to do telemarketing, unload trucks, work at a convenience store in the inner city etc. to help pay for college. Just tell these Buckhead and Gwinnett County types to start trust funds for their kids.

    • John Konop says:


      In all due respect HOPE is a concept that provides opportunities for kids while helping the local economy with training the work force at no mandatory expense to tax payers.

    • Ambernappe says:

      I agree with many of your points, but to which suburban grandmothers and programs are you referring to negatively?

    • ACCmoderate says:

      Also, quit giving HOPE to kids that are going to private schools.

      Sorry Mercer and Emory, but public money should be going to public universities.

      • Ryan says:

        I agree with restricting access to only those students that choose to go to public universities, but I completely disagree with your comment above this one about placing an income cap. What about those students that once they graduate no longer receive money from their parents? Their parents them on their taxes so parental income keeps them from receiving HOPE money until the following year. Sure, they could sit out an year and work but that only makes their college goals that much harder (I don’t know whether or not you did, but sitting out any small amount/or large amount of time only makes it that much tougher to start back and also get back in the swing of things).

        Kids who earn the grade requirements in high school set forth by the HOPE standards and choose to go to a public university should not be penalized because their parents make to much money. Each kid’s eligibility should be based on their acheivements, not their parents.

  7. Jawgadude says:

    Lottery proceeds also fund state Pre-K, which is nothinhg more than glorified daycare. get the state out of pre-k and let the private sector have it. You want your kid to attend then pay for it. All those lottery dollars could then be rolled into HOPE.

    • Gerald says:

      “You want your kid to attend then pay for it. All those lottery dollars could then be rolled into HOPE.”

      Typical modern conservative thinking, which is that I only support programs that I want to benefit from while everyone else can go eat cake.

      If you want your kid to attend college then YOU pay for it, or better yet make your kid get a job or join the military and pay for it himself. The way to fix HOPE is to end it. Period. If we aren’t going to have welfare for poor people, we certainly shouldn’t have it for middle class and rich people. Replace HOPE with a private charity. NOW.

      The HOPE supporters are only conservative when it is programs that they don’t benefit from. When THEY are getting the government checks, they become just as liberal as Tyrone Brooks and Jesse Jackson. Disgusting … any REAL small government conservatives in this state?

  8. saltycracker says:

    Requiring higher GPA’s will get higher subjective GPA’s.
    Capping income (?$250K?) to drive down the redistribution to the poor will get them higher GPA’s.
    A reimbursement plan has merit.

    Maybe you just can’t throw enough money at public programs with a seeming bottomless well.

    Wonder if there any studies since HOPE was begun on the growth of GA college costs, particularly tenured professors & employee costs including pension. Where does the money go ?

    • Libertarian Chick says:

      The money goes to a bunch of paper pushers who have never set foot in the classroom, as does all the money that we get from the feds. None of this RTTT funding will make it to the classroom. 200 million will go strait to the DOE.
      Our students don’t see the money, but a whole lot of people in the Central Office get nice jobs with benefits.

  9. Libertarian Chick says:

    But the point is that the people won’t abide by doing away with the HOPE. It has become an entitlement for many. So we can fix it by makingit a reimbursement plan. Georgia loses about 284 million a year in dropouts and people who lose the HOPE. Making it a reimbursement plan will save that money and ensure that only those who really care about post secondary education go to university, tech college, etc. It’s simply a shift from pre-paid to post-paid.

  10. ACCmoderate says:

    The HOPE scholarship is going to continue to cut the amount of money it gives to students. We’ve already seen a reduction in the book allotment and a refusal by HOPE to cover the new Board of Regents fees. As the cost of a college education rises (tuition, fees, books, room and board, meals), the amount that HOPE affords will decrease.

    When this occurs, more and more students from lower income families (despite being acadmically qualified) will find it harder to attend college.

    The original intention of the HOPE scholarship was to provide students that otherwise would not have access to higher education the opportunity to attend college.

    I am not going to begrudge rich families from Sandy Springs or Cobb County from wanting the scholarship to extend into their income bracket.

    But, given the financial hardship the scholarship is currently in, we have a choice to make: keep giving the scholarship to everyone or restrict it to those with a demonstrated financial need. If we choose the former, the scholarship will die. If we choose the later, some people won’t be able to get the scholarship, but we’ll fufil the original intent.

  11. saltycracker says:

    To refer to LC’s comments – if you changed it to financial need only it would take a few more years to declare inadequate funds for the program.

    Make it a reimbursement program and get those years for all qualified. When we run out of money again we can limit it to the financial needy until we run out of money again.

    Then we can eliminate students from the program altogether.

    • Lady Thinker says:

      My point in an earlier post exactly. That way, it stops the entitlement attitude and help those who are academically qualified but not financially able, to change their lives for the better.

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