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.