Georgia's HOPE Scholarship in Dire Need of Change

Essay by brushrop03College, Undergraduate April 2004

download word file, 8 pages 3.5

For the past ten years, Georgia has sent over 700,000 high school students to its colleges free of tuition payments. Over 100,000 students have received an annual grant of $3,000 to attend a private school in Georgia. That is over $2.11 billion spent for Georgia high school students to attend college. This has all been done through Governor Zell Miller's HOPE scholarship program. Governor Miller started the program in 1993 with the lottery, which is the way the scholarship gains its funds. To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be a Georgia resident, and a high school graduate with a "B" average. Students must also keep a "B" average throughout their college matriculation. If a student loses the scholarship, he or she can gain it back by pulling their average back up to a "B." With the HOPE scholarship, any school in Georgia for its high school residents is a good choice.

The desire to receive a free education has led to a tremendous increase in the amount of scholarships given out a year. In between 1993 and 1994 there were over 40,000 students who received the scholarship for a total of $21.4 million. In the years 2002 and 2003, there were over 200,000 students who received the scholarship for a total of $360 million spent. Although the amount of students obtaining at least a "B" average and receiving the scholarship is a good thing, there is more money being spent on student scholarships then there is being generated through the lottery profits. If the program continues in this manner then the state could be in serious financial problems. The future of the lottery-supported program is questionable. I believe that changes to the program are needed in order to keep the program afloat for future generations.

The HOPE scholarship has received quite a bit of attention over these past few months. With the worry of the continuation of the program, Members on the Joint Study Commission have considered several possibilities to make sure funds are being invested wisely in Georgia students. Governor Sonny Perdue believes that a solution to the problem may be to increase the standards one needs to qualify for the scholarship. The SAT is the most popular required standardized test for colleges in the South. It is not only an entrance requirement for colleges but also a measuring tool of how well a student will perform in college. Perdue believes adding a minimum SAT score of 1000, or an equivalent ACT score of 21, seems to be a reasonable solution to this problem.

Furthermore, adding the SAT could help motivate students to make higher scores on the SAT. As it is now, Georgia ranks last in SAT scores in the United States with an average of 984. This shows that the education program in Georgia is not where it should be. Students that make A's in school may not do well on the SAT because they might take easier classes. Taking easier classes may help the student receive a higher GPA, but when they have to take the SAT they are not properly prepared. They also will not be prepared if they get into a college. Schools' core curriculum should be considered being changed also. "If we are truly going to lead the nation in improving students' achievement, the curriculum will be the linchpin [for] all of our efforts," state Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox said. Maybe adding another year of science as a graduation requirement could help. This could help students develop their critical thinking skills needed on the SAT and in college

Students also matriculate through high school cheating. I know this from personal experience. When I was in high school, I witnessed people who cheated on school work such as test and homework, and I even watched people access teachers' grades to make their own changes to raise their GPA. Teachers try to help their students graduate, obtain the scholarship, and to make themselves look good by giving them B's that were not deserved.

The committee has also decided that the award should no longer help cover the cost of student fees and books. Each scholarship recipient receives more than $1,000 a year at state colleges for books and any other fees. Eliminating payments for books and fees would save more than $125 million the first year. This change could take place as early as next fall affecting students who are now on the scholarship.

Some people, however, think that changes should not be made to the program. These people usually argue that some people, especially minorities, do not do well on standardized test and often do not take higher level courses. Another argument made by those who oppose making changes is that a lot of people are not financially capable for paying their way through college. These could be students who do not feel like they have enough time to work and go to school at the same time or students whose parent's just are not financially capable to paying for college.

Minorities in high schools often do not take higher challenging courses such as honor courses and advanced placement (AP). In Gwinnett County, the states largest and most diverse school system, the students in these advanced courses are either white or Asian. According to the College Board, the African-American students only constituted five percent of the total AP testers, and three percent of who tested was Hispanic. These classes are the best preparation for testing well to get into college and for succeeding once in college. The SAT has always tested critical thinking and problem solving. Students who do not take higher level classes may not have the critical thinking and problem solving skills they need to do well on this test.

Another counterargument against changing the HOPE's program is that it will hurt those that are financially unable to pay for school or afford the help they need in order to get into college. Many students who go to one of the state schools rely on the HOPE in order to pay for their tuition and leave them with a small amount to pay. Other students need money in order to get into college. The tuition alone for Georgia Tech is $12,726 for both semesters, and the tuition for the University of Georgia is around $11,000. This goes back to those who do not test well. Those that are unable to pay for college may be unable to play for classes to prepare themselves for the SAT or ACT. When I was in my junior year of high school I saw expensive SAT/ACT classes. Those who can afford those classes may do better on the test. Those who cannot afford it and need the money may possibly do worse than those that took a class.

Although the reasons not to change the program seem reasonable they still are not good enough for the program to stay the way it is. The program needs to change for it to continue. With the increasing amount of Georgia high school students receiving the scholarship there is not enough money being generated through the sales of lottery tickets.

In my opinion, the excuses against changes to the scholarship program are from those that seem lazy and those that are not hard workers. Gaining a minimum score of 1000 is not a hard goal to accomplish for a student if they are willing to work for it. This laziness is why Georgia has the lowest SAT average in the United States. Students hope to have everything handed to them. On my first SAT I got an 1100. I was excited because I knew that the classes I had taken in school helped me prepare for the test. The classes that one takes in high school greatly influence the scores they receive on the SAT. Taking easy classes won't truly prepare someone for taking a test such as the SAT or even succeeding once in college. Those students who just do poorly on test such as the SAT, which test more of one's problem solving skills, should take the ACT. The ACT is a test that is more school-curriculum based; it tests the students on what they learned while they were in high school. Again, if the student takes the easier classes, he or she would not do as well as someone who takes more advanced, challenging classes.

Some say the students who have money can be better prepared for the SAT. That is not true. There are programs in Georgia that help students for free on their SAT preparation. In my hometown, there were several high schools that offered SAT prep classes on Saturdays for free. Here at Morehouse there is a free program for children in any grade to gain assistance in whatever area of studies. One day I tutored a student who needed help on the SAT and the ACT. After I received my first scores I wanted to make higher, so I went to find a prep class. The classes at my school were all filled at that time, so I went to another high school 45 minutes away to attend the class for four weeks. If one was serious about gaining their education, the he or she should do whatever it takes in order to do well on the test to receive the scholarship. Libraries have books that can be checked out for free on the SAT. Getting help isn't hard if someone looks for it.

The HOPE scholarship is not the only scholarship out there. There are hundreds of thousands scholarship for any student to receive. They have scholarships for anything: type of major/internship scholarships, asthma scholarship, military scholarships, and scholarships based on race. One should not rely on just the HOPE because there are plenty of opportunities for one to receive a free education. These students in college now should not complain about the committee getting rid of the student fees and book money. They are already receiving free tuition, so I am sure they can contribute something to their education. If they do not want to pay, then they should find another scholarship or get a job. Right now my friend is working two jobs in order to pay his way through college. He already has one scholarship, but it is not enough. He will continue to work until he finds more scholarships or makes enough money working.

In conclusion, I believe the HOPE scholarship program needs to be changed in order for it to continue. The amount of money being spent on scholarships are being given out is beginning to exceed the amount of money being made through the sales of lottery tickets. Increasing the requirements to receive it would greatly affect the number of scholarships behind handed out because of the low test scores in Georgia. However, this will hopefully give the students an incentive to want to do better on the test. Classes taken in high school also affect how one performs on the test. Students take easier classes to get their GPA's up and get the scholarship. Students and parents are complaining that it is not fair to everyone to add an SAT requirement. There are other opportunities to receive a free education. The HOPE scholarship is not the only scholarship there is. People should not blame the committee for wanting to change the program. They are only trying to keep the scholarship afloat for future generations, and without changes it will only sink and becoming nothing.