Opinion: We overcorrected HOPE Scholarship and students suffered. Time to reopen debate.

State Rep. Stacey Evans, D- Smyrna, has made education a focus in the Georgia Legislature. A north Georgia native, Evans attended the University of Georgia on a HOPE Scholarship. She is now an attorney.

When the General Assembly began to tinker with HOPE four years ago in response to mounting financial pressures on the beloved program, Evans urged a sliding income scale to ensure students from Georgia’s poorest families continued to receive full tuition.

Her effort failed. Instead, the General Assembly approved Gov. Nathan Deal’s HOPE plan, which did the following:

•Full HOPE — now the Zell Miller scholarship — goes only to students with a 3.7 grade point average and at least a 1200 on the 1600-scale SAT.

•Students with a 3.0 high school GPA earn what I call HOPE Lite, which is based on available lottery funds. So, in 2014, HOPE Lite paid 79 percent of tuition for a student taking 15 hours at the University of Georgia. HOPE no longer covers any books or fees.

In its review of the impact of those changes, the AJC found most Zell Miller scholars come from affluent metro Atlanta schools. That finding makes sense as SAT scores correlate with the income and educational attainment of parents, which is why poor teens, whether rural or urban, don’t earn Zell Miller awards at the same rate as more affluent suburban counterparts.

(Recognizing there would be areas of Georgia where no students would qualify for Zell Miller because of the high SAT threshold, full HOPE now also goes to each high school’s valedictorian and salutatorian so at least two students in a county get it.)

With that background, here is Evan’s essay:

By Stacey Evans

Georgia and the country have a tuition problem.  Higher education has never been so expensive. Nationally, tuition has increased well over 300 percent since 1988, while inflation has increased roughly 85 percent.

State Rep. Stacey Evans

State Rep. Stacey Evans

And here at home, we’re not immune. Just two months ago, the Board of Regents voted to raise tuition up to 9 percent, for an average system wide increase of 3 percent.

There is no silver bullet in addressing the cost of education.  It is an expensive endeavor. And when tuition increases, so does the debt burden placed on the backs of students.  At the federal level, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has introduced legislation that would offer debt relief to students by allowing them to refinance their loans and receive lower interest rates.

President Obama is also working to offer free community college for students that make a 2.5 GPA, which would also decrease the debt load thrust on students under our current system. These proposals are huge steps in the right direction, and I hope Congress will take serious steps to make them the law of the land.

Georgia has a rich history of playing a vital role in national education policy, as well as a rich history in finding solutions that fit our very unique set of problems.  And I think it’s time to address that distinct set of issues facing our students and their families.

Georgia has a vested interest in making sure the capital projects that are intrinsically associated with the “college experience” today, such as massive student and recreation centers, do not price out Georgians or strap them with debt. As the value of a HOPE Scholarship and Grant diminishes, I’m afraid that is what we’re facing.

It does not have to be this way, and we know that because in Georgia, it hasn’t been that way. Twenty-three years ago, Georgia voters approved the lottery because that money would go to students. Since the 2011 alterations to the HOPE program, the lottery has saved over and beyond what they intended and that number grows every day.

As tuition continues to rise, and the value of HOPE decreases, Georgia is creeping further away from that promise. At the same time, the lottery has saved roughly twice what they’re required to save statutorily.

As a legislator and a former HOPE Scholar who would not have been able to afford to attend the University of Georgia under the current HOPE structure, this troubles me. I grew up poor in the mountains of North Georgia, but I knew if I kept my end of the bargain and kept my grades up, Gov. Zell Miller and the state would keep their end, I could go to college despite our family’s income.

Addressing rising tuition must be done nationally and locally. And it is going to be hard. But, in the meantime, we cannot continue down the unsustainable path of passing the cost off to the student in the form of large debt. It’s bad for the student, their future, our economy and the state as a whole.

Georgia has historically been at the forefront of making a deal with students: if you work hard in high school and in college, we’ll help you cover tuition costs. That’s simply not the case anymore.  That bargain, while not wholly abandoned, slips further away every time tuition rises and we stick with the system we have.

As the President and members of Congress look for ways to address this nationally, I am looking at ways to responsibly reinvest in that bargain with Georgia.

The good news is that there are options. It is possible to renew this bargain and for the lottery to remain fiscally sound for generations of students. I wouldn’t recommend doing anything to jeopardize this. But when tuition increases and decreasing HOPE value is occurring while money above the required lottery shortfall reserves is accruing, we are doing something wrong.

We have overcorrected and, should we stay this course, we are doing so at the expense of a bargain that has become part of the fabric of Georgia.

Next session, I will put forward legislation that gets us back to the bargain we made with Georgia’s families because frankly I know they will keep their end of the deal. I know because I did. I never asked for a hand out, and neither did my family. We just did the work necessary to hold up our end.

Because of that bargain, I was able to go from a trailer on the Georgia-Tennessee line to the halls of the University of Georgia. That is what the bargain of HOPE did for me.  And we owe it to the thousands of Georgia’s students and their families to continue the rich tradition of holding up our end as a state.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

269 comments
Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

So ... "Zell Miller scholars come from affluent metro Atlanta schools. That finding makes sense as SAT scores correlate with the income and educational attainment of parents, which is why poor teens, whether rural or urban, don’t earn Zell Miller awards at the same rate as more affluent suburban counterparts."


Wasn't the Hope scholarship program planned to keep Georgia's best students in Georgia?  If so, than the Zell Miller program is doing what it is supposed to.


What State Rep. Stacey Evans, D- Smyrna, want's to do is change "Zell" to "Pell." 


All this being said, there are many students from less affluent areas who do quite well, but they are forced to swim against the local currents.




Wascatlady
Wascatlady

One other thing I tried to post a few days ago: for those of you who believe the cost of college should be borne by the student, since they are the ones who "profit,"  I was not referring to increased taxes from educated people.  I was talking about the substantive benefits derived by our country from an educated populace.  If you are unsure what I am talking about, please peruse "How College Affects Stuidents," a 900 page meta-analysis of the benefits we get from increasing the educational achievement of our people.

jerryeads
jerryeads

Yes, Georgia now has a "rich" history. The set of rules surrounding HOPE - simply a contribution by gullible (usually lower income) suckers who buy lottery tickets - is just a single example. As long as the lower and middle income electorate is gullible enough to keep voting for people (who think themselves better than you) who sucker you then laugh all the way to the bank with their pockets stuffed full of rich donor bux, you and, far more importantly, your kids will get poorer and poorer while the duplicitous con artists you elect get richer and richer.

This has nothing to do with Republican vs. Democrat. There are good people on both sides of that fence. The pendulum has, nevertheless, swung such that the Rs you elect as a whole could care less about the health of the country (or average income kids wanting to go to college)(or, for that matter, actual conservatism) and care only about furthering the interests of those who line their pockets. Swing the pendulum, folks. Yes, it'll need swinging again at some point.
The other thing you might consider: Stop buying lottery tickets. You're more likely to get hit by lightning on a sunny day in the middle of the Mojave desert than winning big. All you're doing is helping rich parents make the payments on their college kid's foreign-made sporty car.

To my own "kids" I teach: I apologize if the above seems harsh. I know how hard you work to try to make ends meet, paying your own way and borrowing every semester to cover what HOPE doesn't. But the folks now in office aren't going to fix this. With some wonderful exceptions, they're simply too greedy and self-serving. Get thee to the polls too.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@jerryeads You said it well, Jerry!  I consider myself middle class, and I have never bought a ticket. When asked why, my answer is, I can spend the dollar (or how much ever they cost) on something my family NEEDS, or I can throw it away on the lottery.  I choose to use my money for my family's needs.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Also, before HOPE, Georgia participated in a federal program, called SSIG, I think, which provided a federal match of money to money Georgia provided to poorer students.  Even though poorer students were initially disqualified from HOPE, SSIG went away, with no alternative for poorer students other than Pell, and loans.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

History of the HOPE:  Originally there was a top and BOTTOM income cap on HOPE.  If you qualified for Pell, no matter how high your grades were, you did not get HOPE.  The top cap was $100,000 as I recall, and was later increased; the top cap came off before the bottom cap did.

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

Please don't refer to the HOPE Grant, which is available for eligible diploma-seeking students, as HOPE Lite. There is enough confusion between the HOPE Scholarship (for eligible degree-seeking students) and the HOPE Grant as is.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@atln8tiv HOPE lite is what the article referred to regular HOPE scholarship (the non-Zell Miller scholar).  HOPE grant is an entirely different animal.

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

@class80olddog @atln8tiv Ah, I see. There have been so many changes to both over the last few years, I was confused myself. Thanks for the clarification.

mar1049
mar1049

I remember why and when the HOPE scholarship was started. It has evolved over the years to not help the very people who it was originally intended. Then when you look at the makeup of those folks under the gold dome would you expect any other outcome.

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog @mar1049 Except that when the HOPE scholarship first came into being, students whose family income exceeded $100,000 were excluded from the program.  So it was always merit based and also, at lest initially, income based.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @class80olddog @mar1049 And then the legislature, in their wisdom, changed it - just like they changed it four years ago to bring it in line with money collected by the lottery.  Rep. Evans wants to make it more need-based, and I would like to see it more merit-based (by adding a minimum SAT score to the "HOPE lite").  There is still the HOPE grant, which has no GPA requirement for Technical schools.

But the real need is to curb the tremendous increase in the tuition, fees, and book costs for college these days.  THAT is what drove the HOPE scholarship into the ground financially - that and rampant grade inflation.

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog @redweather @mar1049 The reason tuition and fees have increased so much is because that same legislature (wise or not) has decided to reduce state funding of our public colleges and universities. Georgia leads the nation in that since 2008, and by a lot. You can cite the example of Mark Becker and his $500,000 raise as an example of financial excess, and I will be the first to agree with you. But his $500,000 is a mere pittance compared with how much the legislature has reduced funding.

mensa_dropout
mensa_dropout

@class80olddog @redweather @mar1049

But when the government is subsidizing something, it automatically becomes more expensive.  Which is why vouchers won't work.

I'd like to see the whole HOPE die a slow and painful death;then we can get back to actually teaching kids instead of justifying grades.  

class80olddog
class80olddog

If you could point me to the historical funding (in total dollars) for post-secondary education, I would appreciate it. Can't seem to find anything other than per student, and we know that enrollment has skyrocketed.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I found some of it - So in 2002, University funding was 9.2% of the State Budget, in 2007 (before the crash) it was 10.2%, and in 2013 it was 9.3% of the budget.  Not what I would call a "huge decrease in funding".  What HAS gone up is the enrollment - it has increased vastly due to "everyone and his brother" going to college (perhaps because a HS diploma is no longer worth squat).  The State income has not increased, so there is not much money to go around.  The HOPE scholarship helped for a lot of students, but then rampant grade inflation let ANYONE get HOPE (at least for a year). 

Just add the minimum SAT score to counter the grade inflation and keep HOPE for "Outstanding" students.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @class80olddog @mar1049 They haven't really reduced the funding by that much as a percentage of the State budget, indeed it is higher than in 2002.  What HAS gone up is the number of students, so it looks like the PER-STUDENT funding goes down. But without more money coming into the state coffers, the only way to INCREASE funding would be to decrease it elsewhere (State is not allowed to run a deficit) or increase taxes (sorry, not going to happen - and shouldn't). 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog 

If the enrollment has increased ---as indeed it has-- but the funding has stayed pretty level, then in effect that funding has to stretch a lot further and in reality has gone down for the school.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@mar1049 "The HOPE Program (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally)"

That is the name of the program - note the word "outstanding".  Did it say "Helping Poor People Go to College"? NO!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@OriginalProf @class80olddog As I mentioned, it has gone down PER STUDENT - but only about 1200 per year since 2007 - the rest is increases in expenditures.  I mention again, if you increase spending as a percentage of the budget, you have to cut something else (or increase taxes) so what will you cut?  Medicaid?  Welfare?  Hospitals? Prisons?  K-12 Spending (50% of budget)?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog @OriginalProf 

Riiiight.  You've said that you're the parent of a UGA grad. How would you feel if there had been a cap on enrollment when she applied so she didn't get in?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog @OriginalProf 

Your figures don't show anything about the funding going down per student, just going down for the institution, period.


And make your choice, taxpayer: either raise taxes for higher education or raise the tuition/fees. But if you opt not to raise the taxes, then don't kvetch about tuition!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@OriginalProf @class80olddog I don't understand what you are saying.  If you choose only the best academically for you college, it doesn't matter if you are choosing 9000 or 6000. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog @OriginalProf 

What if there are 9000 "best" students who apply to your college, but you have to turn away 3000 because you have a 6000 enrollment cap---can't expand beyond your present student population?

CSpinks
CSpinks

Things are going real well for Nathan, Sonny and their "friends." But they aren't going so well for young folks who are smart- though not exceptionally so- but who lack affluent parents and/or grandparents. These young folks face the daunting prospect of the accumulations of large debts to finance overly expensive post-secondary educations.


Whatever happened to the notion of equal educational opportunity? Free public education? As far as one's abilities might take one.


Whatever happened to the notion of holding the leadership of the USG and its member institutions to account for the outrageously high costs of post-secondary education in The Peach State? The "broken record" turns again: When have the USG and each of its member institutions been subjected to rigorous, external financial audits by competent, out-of-state entities?


Now don't even mention a SACS audit. A SACS audit is analogous to the foxes' performing a census in the chicken house. I've seen and been involved in one of those.

anothercomment
anothercomment

The Georgia state fall 2015 tuition for 14 hrs. Junior without housing or meal plans :

Activity fee $92

athletic Fee $277

Chemistry Lab Fee $50

Health fee $40

In- state tuition $3,993.78

international Education $19

languages Lab Fee $5

library Facility Fee $5

recreation Fee $53

Student Center/Facility Fee $36

Sustainability Fee $3

Technology Fee $ 85

Transportation Fee $50

USG Institution Fee $404.00

Total Charges $ 5,112.78

The HOPE rules were changed while my daughter was in Highschool. She took the most challenging classes freshman year and was burnt by getting deathly ill by the swine flu and missing 11 weeks, coupled with a rule change that made the full HOPE go from 3.0 to 3.7. A hIgh school administrator decided B's instead of withdrawal were best for her. She got straight Between 3.8 to 4.2 other semesters, but could not overcome that administrative decision. If the HOPE had been different I would have been under the current rules I would have gone to the school board to overrule this decision, since it has cost us significantly. My daughter has a 3.81 so she would have maintained the full Hope.

The Hope scholarship for the Fall is $3,495 for Hope Lite at GA State. $1,617.78 in tuition and fees. My daughter is taking 5 classes she averages about $100 per class. She will buy the books for her Major to keep as reference and rent the rest to keep this average.

last year she got the max Pell Grant, this year she made $3,000 more from her two part-time jobs and her Pell Grant was cut $3,000. Her part time job has been used to pay for her car, insurance, soriety ( ridiculous $100/mo. I refuse to pay) books, pocket money. We have stayed debt free. We had calculated we can avoid a loan fall semester, but she may not be be able to work with Clinicals Spring semester so we may have to borrow for Spring.

The fees are ridiculous look at the list. Who needs a Panther football team! Who needs a Ga state Gym? Who needs a Ga State health clinic, we have health insurance, it is the law! Why do we have to pay for international students, aren't they suppose to pay full freight plus and provide scholarships for poor American students they did when I was an Undergrad and Grad student. The list of fees make you sick! They should all be included in Tuition!

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@anothercomment 

Those fees are set to cover the expenses of ALL students, which the University has to cover.  Your daughter may not use the gym, but a lot of other students do. You may have health insurance, but not all do; and the Clinic is there for students who suddenly get ill, have an accident, and so on. The Technology fee covers, among other things, computer usage in the Library, technology used around the university, and so on. The athletics fee covers all the sports programs that Georgia State has, not just the football team (whose costs are not covered by the student fees but by an independent fund).  Etc.  It's rather like municipal taxes that cover activities you don't use. That goes with any large University.

Tuition only covers the expense of instructing the students: the necessary faculty and administrators.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@anothercomment

I hear you.  When the youngest was going to Kennesaw, she decided to take one class in the Summer.  The fees were more than the tuition.  I can understand fees for services actually received, such as a parking fee.  But most of the other fees are simply the school gouging the student for every penny they can wring from them.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Lee_CPA2 @anothercomment 

No.  It's the school making its students pay for the costs of running the school. Who else is supposed to pay for it?  Once your daughter became a student there, even if only for a term, she too shares the costs. What if she decided to use the Student Center? Eat in the student cafeteria there? Visit the Health Clinic for a sprained ankle or a flu shot? Exercise at the student Gym?  Etc.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@OriginalProf @Lee_CPA2 @anothercomment The problem is they want to run it like MARTA - everyone pays for the services used by a few.  Rather than require those who ride the bus to pay, they charge everyone a "transportation fee.  They charge you for the football program whether you want it or not.  They require you to pay for the student medical center even though you have insurance and can go to the local Urgent Care.  Gym the same way - if you want to use it, join a membership.  Don't build a Taj Majal student center when only a few students actually study there.

anothercomment
anothercomment

The. ACA ( obamacare) mandates Health insurance. It allows children to stay on their parents policies until 26 now! or all can by an individual policy if not eligible for the ACA in this Age group on the indivual market a Humana policy without subsides for a Platinum plan for around $170 month. My child and I should not have to pay for those who don't follow the law and have coverage.

anothercomment
anothercomment

Here is my daughters Junior year Georgia State Fall tuition Bill Below. No one has discussed the game the State system has played my daughter brought in 5 dual enrollment classes. She took 4 AP, she got A's with the exception of one B, but was not a good AP test taker so she did not score above a 3. So no credit for those only the Dual enrollments. She had hoped the dual Enrolment would allow her to graduate early, but not in the state system. She applied to both the Accelerated 3 semester nursing program and the regular program. Which you now have to completely reapply after sophomore year. She though 3.81 GPA would give her a good shot at the accelerated program, nope! It barely got her in to the regular program which is 6 semesters more. She is now 6 classes ahead, but she cannot get ahead of the sequence. For example, she only needs 4 semester hours for the program for the fall, everything else she has taken.

Then the moronic adviser at Ga State told her to only take the 4 hrs. I said oh know you don't if you don't take at least 12 hrs, you will not get your Hope Scholarship and You will not get a Pell Grant. So I have told her it will benefit her to take a Chemistry class ( even though it is not needed for nursing, she will have it for Grad school if she wants to go to Med School, PA school, PT, school, or Pharmacy school among other options), a Spanish class and she could take Nutrision this semester. Spring Semester she has been told they start doing Clinicals at St. Joes and Northside. With the third Semester Clinicals down at Grady in addition to classes.

Many majors, especially the STEM majors have sequences of classes that are only offered once a year, or even in the upper level one class

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@anothercomment 

Why are you blaming the University for your daughter's poor high school counseling and her inability to get the required  AP grades? Since you have taken over her academic counseling at Georgia State (when she hasn't even declared a major), I hope that she does not get to her senior year, when she has mandatory graduation counseling from the University, and find she's taken the wrong courses.

anothercomment
anothercomment

My child is in nursing school you idiot. She has too many credits! Is the problem! But the track won't let her move ahead. I am suggesting that she take extra classes because they are essentially free the way the system works.

I took 18-21 credits a semester as an undergrad. Since universities didn't charge over 15 or 18 like they do now. They my senior year I took grad level classes. So I got a Masters degree in two semesters. It is called using your Pell Grant and Hope Scholarship to pay for the most classes at the undergraduate level you can.

It is just like many who qualify for Pell and needs based scholarships, including at Private schools are of the entrepreneurs who have accountants or know the tax code.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@anothercomment 

I did a quick check of GSU's School of Nursing and Health Professions...sure enough, they have an administrative office to help you if you'll just take the trouble to go and ask:

 Office of Academic Assistance
Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:15 p.m.
811 Urban Life Building
Atlanta, GA 30303
Phone Number: (404) 413- 1000



OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@anothercomment 

So, you idiot, make an appointment with someone in the Nursing School and straighten it out.  Petition. Talk with that academic adviser you scorn. But don't decide all this on  your own--get someone official at the University to handle it. Your experience ages ago as an undergraduate at a different university has nothing to do with the rules today at Georgia State. Your pig-headedness here is going to hurt your daughter.

sf33
sf33

Cheers to Representative Evans! A few of us protested 4 years, when these changes to HOPE were made by the governor and the legislature. For reasons beyond our understanding our protests were met with silence and little or no protest from media who cover education or state government. Everyday working Georgians contribute to the financial well being of the state, but receive less benefit than they need for their children and families' well being whether funding for post secondary education, healthcare coverage or investment in transit, clean air and water.


Your efforts to right this wrong in higher education can make a huge difference in the lives of everyday Georgians and put the state on the trajectory for a stronger economy. CHEERS!

Starik
Starik

"Fine- how are you two going to pay for all of this?"  Tax the churches and their preachers, and the other "nonprofits."

Astropig
Astropig

@Starik


Okay- You propose that and let's see how far it goes.Call your legislators and demand that they introduce legislation to do what you propose.You may hear a click (followed by silence). Just keep calling.

Starik
Starik

@Astropig @Starik Ah - and if I called them five years ago to suggest gay marriage? If I called them in the 1950s to suggest an end to Jim Crow Laws? The amount of change we have seen is amazing, and if people get tired of paying for the Reverend Creflo Dollar's lifestyle...?

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

To all the hard working families and students who went in debt up to their eyeballs to attend and finish college, the retired Education bureaucracy thanks you and hopes you will be lucky enough to attain their status of owning second homes on the beach, near free healthcare and consulting perks. ( pass the sunscreen )