Debate over whether to change HOPE GPA for math, science majors will move to Legislature

We’ve had a lot of discussion on this blog about whether the HOPE Scholarship should be used to encourage math and science majors. The question has been whether it’s fair to hold Georgia Tech biochemistry majors to the same 3.0 GPA requirement to retain HOPE as Georgia Southern English majors or Kennesaw State University sociology majors.

Now, the debate will move to the General Assembly. State Rep. Jan Jones of Milton, a leading Republican with a long-time interest in education issues, introduced a bill that would give college students the same half-point boost to their GPAs for taking tough STEM  courses that they now earn for taking advanced classes in high school. (The bill is House Bill 801.)

Do we need more engineers? (Georgia Tech Photo)

Is HOPE pushing students out of tougher science and math programs? (Georgia Tech Photo)

And “hard” would be defined as the sorts of classes taken by Georgia Tech students. So, a B in physics would go from a 3.0 to a 3.5 value. A C in calc sequence becomes a 2.5 instead of a 2.0

The criteria for the boost would be set by the Regents, but the intent would be to keep kids in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors that prepare them for the hard-to-fill jobs in the state.

In October, I wrote about a troubling study by researchers at Georgia and Oklahoma State Universities that found the fear of losing HOPE seemed to be reducing the number of Georgia students willing to pursue challenging science and math degrees.

I wrote:

The study of merit-based scholarship programs in several states including Georgia found: State merit-based scholarships reduce the likelihood a student will earn a degree in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field.

“We find that as a result of these merit aid programs, there was a significant drop in the probability of students majoring in STEM,” said David L. Sjoquist, co-author of the study, professor of economics and affiliated faculty in the Center for State and Local Finance and the Fiscal Research Center in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State.

HOPE pays a large portion of tuition at Georgia’s public campuses for high school students who quality. To keep HOPE, students need to maintain a 3.0 average in college. To hold onto the more lucrative Zell Miller Scholarship, students must maintain a 3.30 GPA in college.

Should we penalize an engineering major at Georgia Tech or a biochemistry major at the University of Georgia for slipping to a 2.9 in demanding courses?

Last year, I asked the chancellor of Georgia’s colleges and universities this question: Given the rigor of Georgia Tech courses and the state’s increasing need for math and science talent, should Tech be treated as a special case and the GPA threshold to retain HOPE Scholarships lowered?

Chancellor Hank Huckaby told me, “I don’t know how you deal with that but I understand the argument can be made. I don’t have an answer but it keeps coming up. And that argument is getting louder. It, quite frankly, is something we haven’t addressed yet.”

The debate on this issue was vigorous on the blog with one reader noting: “It seems that a substantial portion of this discussion (including many comments) seems to presume that a large portion of GT STEM grades stay in the state of Georgia. Is there evidence to support this? GT grads are in high demand across the country and throughout the world; I assume a very large portion leave the state after graduation. It may be that having a local supply of STEM grads creates a conducive environment for tech-based firms, but a marginal (and the findings are somewhat marginal) decline due to the HOPE requirements seems unlikely to change that environment that much. And, adjusting the standards downwards for certain majors will only help those folks who can make those thresholds (some are likely to still not meet the lower thresholds).”

But a Tech grad wrote: “I graduated from GT right after HOPE started, so unfortunately, I had ZERO chance to raise my 2.6 high enough to get it.  HOPE certainly provides a much greater incentive to work toward a 3.0.  Folks, this school is difficult, even for very smart people. Anyone who says otherwise is either one of those people who always performs well on tests, has a photographic memory, is a true genius, is someone who has no social life and studies for hours on end every day, is a liar, or some combination of the above.  I admit that I could have definitely worked harder than I did, and would have if I’d been able to foretell the future and knew HOPE was coming…but still, there is a definite truth to the fact that holding a standard GPA requirement for every student in GA is not fair to those in more difficult majors and should be lowered.”

What do you think?

Reader Comments 0

63 comments
sdb999
sdb999

I think the bill has merit but too politically hot to pass, but we'll see.

The real tragedy is that GPA in the University System of Georgia isn't.  Meaning it's not a Grade Point Average of your USG career.  If you transfer between schools those institutions are allowed to manipulate it as they see fit.

For instance my student with a 3.2 at KSU decided after two years that a smaller school was more to his liking and wanted to transfer to SPSU.  Fine they said but it’ll cost you dearly…..forget that 3.2 GPA, you start at zero.We’ll take the core class credits you earned those first two years but the Dean’s List and solid GPA you generated, no dice.

It was a high price to be sure but he thrived at SPSU with the smaller classes and campus experience that wasn’t about being the next UGA.  It came back to haunt, the first two years of core classes are critical in a number of ways, not the least of which is to build a solid GPA that will be buffeted by the higher level classes to come.  Deprived of that well-earned basis and facing upper level Engineering Curriculum the outcome was not pretty.  He struggled to keep his GPA up.

Three years later the Board of Regents and the University System of Georgia reneged on their promise……You’re going back to KSU, and guess what……you still don’t get those grades for your GPA.  Welcome back.

SouthernHope5
SouthernHope5

I understand the thinking behind this.  I have a daughter at Ga Tech and that school will kick your butt. VERY hard. But Tech keeps its reputation by keeping its standards high and only attracting those students who believe they can keep up that GPA.  Yes, this might encourage more kids to jump in but they may not be to the standard that is there today. 

Sheena Ware
Sheena Ware

I don't feel as though your choice of major or school should determine what the GPA is needed to keep HOPE. I attended what is now Augusta University and kept HOPE all four years to attain my Special Education degree. Why should my degree only require a 3.0 GPA a Augusta University, but someone who wants to attend Georgia Tech to become an Engineer be held to a higher standard? A difference of 3.0 and 3.30 should not make or break the career of a college student. It is already hard enough to attain a college degree as we speak. The costs are outrageous, many have to work and attend school, and the loans are a big burden after graduation. Job availability is slowly becoming more abundant, but there are those who are still struggling to find a job which puts their expensive degree to good use. I don't think attaining a degree should be made any more difficult than it already is.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Sheena Ware 

I think you may misunderstand what was (the proposal has been dropped) being suggested. Those taking STEM courses would have to maintain a lower GPA to keep their HOPEs because the courses are considered more "difficult."


Congratulations on achieving your Special Education degree. I would argue that in the larger scheme of things, training to work with Special Education students is as important for society as training to be an engineer.

Another comment
Another comment

I have degrees in both architecture from a top 25 NCARB accreted Archectectural Program with in an Engineering School at a Private University in the tiers just below the Ivies. I also have a Masters Degree in Engineering from a program that was rated #1 in the country when I received my degree back in 83. I was one of only two females who was in that program.

Their are still issues with only 17-30% of the class in some of the engineering majors today being woman freshman year ( other than bio-medical that has become close to 50-50).

I have directly supervised 50-75 engineers in the course of my career ( I was a good boss so I had little turn over). I also had integration with hundreds of other engineers and architects at A&E firms through contracts and being on committees as a national expert.

I was the President of Tau Beta Pi, which is the Engineering Honor Society for my Junior and Senior Year of College. To be offered admission junior year you must be in the top 1/8 of the class. Senior Year 1/5 or 20%. I graduated 5 th in my class with just over a 3.3 GPA in 1982 undergrad. That earned me a full ride teaching assistantship scholarship for graduate school. For juniors and 1/8 we went down to 3.1 or 3.0 range. In order to get to 1/5 or 20% offer both years we went down between 2.8-2.9 GPA.

I routinely hired Engineers and Architects with 2.5. 2.8 GPA's who were great architects and Engineers.

An MIT nerd who was a 4.0 guy who was hired by one firm I worked for and then members of my staff and I would encounter over the years, was a nightmear.

Perhaps it should be the top 20% GPA for the specific Major.

I have bluntly told many students who want to go into engineering to take a guaranteed scholarship out of state or at a private University, rather than relying on maintain your HOPE at Georgia Tech. I have been blunt less than 20% will maintain it for 4 years.

Then look at Southern tech aka the disaster of the merger at Kennesaw less than 20% are actual graduating from their hot Robatics aka Mechatronics Engineering degree. I calculated 16 %

Another comment
Another comment

I am not try to brag about myself original Professor, I am trying to give context by giving real life examples from the real world of what GPA's are at Architecture and Engineering Schools. Then what people in the real world look at when hiring!

What I don't like what has happened at Georgia Tech with the Hope Scholarship and then the Asian invasion paying full freight to help make up the State funding short falls ( it was the Iranian and middle eastern oil money in the late 70's and 80's) . Is that you now have a bunch of all Straight A admits from every Georgia HiGH School. All 1500-1600 SAT or 34-36 ACT scores. That is a very boring class and not someone I want to have make up the diversity of my staff.

In Georgia you have GT and now a very watered down Kennesaw standards admittance to Southern tech. Then a ridiculous after second year only math,M science engineering cut of 2.7. . Which is why they aren't graduating even 20%. I had several great Architects and Engineers on my Staff.

I was a B student in High school with above average but not great SAT's because I can relate to state Rep. Stacey Evans ( only I grew up in upstate NY). I had a high school drop out mother. The legal immigration anchor baby who was ESOL in first grade was my mother ( they didn't have ESOL programs then). She dropped out of High school. She died over the holidays, and I was returned my elementary school report cards and high school writings. The daughter of her sister 5 years younger who I stayed with was shocked at how poor my 9th grade writing was. My youngest sister is married to a doctor and has an education degree, remarked to me he thought she has a learning disability. I asked why, he said she can't spell. I said neither can I, none of us can. I told him, that I believe my mother was barely functionally literate. She could never help us beyond elementary school work. Never with spelling, it is a huge disadvantage. Yet I overcame it and excelled.

I would like to see the state allow students to take their HOPE scholarships for Engineering and Architecture to a some out of state and Private schools ( most students from here come back ( you could do a 4 year agreement to come back or it is a loan). You could do Auburn, Tulane, LSU, Clemson, for starters ( the best architect I had on Staff went to Virginia ( but that is hard to get into out of state) . Many don't realize but you can already get in state tuition to some programs that aren't available in the GA systems and some are in the Graduate Architecture Program at Clemson. This is a less expensive solution then doing a new program at Georgia ( that basically has the same cut as Tech and no Engineering pedigree.)

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Another comment 

Biblical wisdom that several posters here might take to heart: "Do not brag about yourself--let others praise you."  Proverbs 27.2.

Another comment
Another comment

You can bible verse your self to death. I am an engineer not a Bible thumper.

Another comment
Another comment

My daughte is a nursing major at Georgia State and last semester a Cheating scheme was uncovered by one of the Nursing Professors. The pressure is so high to maintain the high grades in the STEM classes, especially for the Minority admits. That they have resorted to cheating and cheating rings,

The teacher discovered that they had a hold of the test or were passing on the test. Students had been allowed to take tests during a testing period at a location, rather than one sitting. Or something.

The professor changed the test. One of the students got so angry that she went to the professor's office hours and assaulted her. She only survived this vicious assualt because the other professors are first responders. She had to be taken to a trauma center. The Professor is now scared to death this student is going to come back because Fulton county let her out on Bail.

Real problems with grade inflation in many high schools for HOPE. Especially the low income schools. Big problem with Minority admits taking spots from higher qualified Asian and White students. Then Big problem first with change in Hope coverage mid course to not being full. Then yes STEM majors are hard and need to be hard Life safety is involved.

Another comment
Another comment

It is true ! The professor is locking them in the classroom during classes. There are only 72 students in each nursing class. Not to hard to figure out.

Plus GSU sent a letter out to those in the program yesterday detailing the incident and that 12 were caught cheating!

ccallicutt
ccallicutt

As the daughter of a retired Technology & Engineering teacher {he wrote the GPS for his particular strand!}, I've spent my fair share of time around Georgia Tech students.  Some of the brightest kids my father had the opportunity to work with lost HOPE in their first semester and failed to ever earn it back.  As a result, many of these future engineers changed their majors to Management.  While Management is a noble {and necessary!} major, we're shortchanging ourselves as a nation if we don't change the standards of how HOPE is earned and kept.  My father has since retired and now works in politics, so this issue is still near and dear to his heart.  


Mrs. Downey, your argument that weighting GPA points for these difficult classes is totally on point.  We allow our high school students to weigh their AP or dual-enrollment classes, but we don't offer the same benefit to our future engineers, scientists, and pioneers.  If we want to compete on an economic and innovative level on an international level, giving these students a slight boost is most likely a necessity.  

PSU92
PSU92

I work in a Fortune 500 technology company filled with high IQ engineers and to suggest more heavily weighting math / science vs literature, marketing, theatre or a finance class is is wrong. I can assure you that there is a large percentage of engineers who struggle with communicating or explaining their own areas of expertise. Thus, should we weight these classes more heavily because they are harder for your typical engineer, scientist or biologist - obviously not. Should we penalize education majors - those same people that teach science in middle school to the kid who becomes a doctor - obviously not. The point is each individual has their own strengths & weaknesses and all of these roles are important, so let the chips fall where they may instead of parsing each individual class and devaluing areas of study that are clearly necessary.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

@PSU92 I understand your concern with "devaluing areas of study", but the basic rule is you get more of what you subsidized and less of what you tax/penalize. 

As a society, we apply this rule all the time - tax breaks for home ownership, tax breaks for college tuition, subsidized student loans, tax penalties for not buying health insurance, etc, etc, etc...

Already, here in Georgia, I believe that in public education science and math teachers begin their careers at year 5 on the teacher salary scale in an attempt to alleviate the STEM  teacher shortage.

So, if the powers that be want to encourage more STEM majors, or more low-income students to take a chance on attending Georgia Tech vs. a less competitive/demanding school, so be it.  Governments do this sort of thing ALL the time.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@PSU92 

Well said.  Thank you.  I will go further and state that those courses which teach the arts and the humanities, often delve more deeply into shades of human consciousness and the understanding of human nature and character with more nuance than stereotypes, which engineers often may not be educated to understand in their fields.  We need the English majors, the psychology majors, the education majors, etc. in order to build bridges of peaceful communication on our common planet.  MLKJr.: "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."


Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@AlreadySheared @PSU92 An argument the other way is we want ONLY THE VERY BEST engineers of bridges, etc.  Not saying a 2.5 engineer isn't smart--obviously not true--but there are some fields in which culling the herd is wise.  Medicine is another one.  Do you want the doctor who was less than stellar?


As you can see from a previous post of mine, the issue can be argued both ways.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Oh good grief, make an exception here, an exception there, and pretty soon, you're talking the US tax code.


Here's an idea - make the HOPE Scholarship a REIMBURSEMENT program where the student pays his fees up front and then submits his grades for reimbursement.  You could also make it a progressive reimbursement based on grades achieved (i.e. 80% for a C, 90% for a B, and 100% for an A)


Withdraw?  You don't get reimbursed.  Make a D?  No reimbursement.  Flunk out?  No reimbursement.


Very simple and easy to administer.  No high school GPAs to qualify.  No maintain a certain level GPA in college.  No Zell Miller hoops to jump through.  You get accepted to college, you pay your tuition, you take the class, you get reimbursed based on grade.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Lee_CPA2 

The problem with what you propose, imo, is that many of those students who earn GPAs less than 3.0 may be less equipped to earn higher grades and may even need the financial resources more than some students who are well equipped to earn 3.0 or 4.0 GPAs.  The students who make grades at the 2.0 range may be working even harder and carrying more personal responsibility than those with higher GPAs.  That is why I believe that "every student who desires to achieve a college education in the state of Georgia should be given the financial resources to do so."

The bottom line is that we attempt to upgrade as much of our state's populace as is possible, as well as the quality of jobs which our state's populace is capable of holding, as well as the future taxes that these future wage-earners in Georgia will be able to pay into our common tax base. 


Investment in our human resources is the wisest investment in Georgia's future that we can make.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@MaryElizabethSings @Lee_CPA2

Okay Bernie Sanders, you want to send EVERYBODY to college?  How are you going to pay for it?  Hell, we're having trouble paying for K-12.  What are you going to do with the casual student who attends college for a year, doesn't do the work, and drops out?  (Newsflash:  that is one of the core reasons the HOPE Scholarship got into financial difficulties).


I attended college and earned a BBA and MBA under a company provided tuition reimbursement program similar to the one I described above.  It worked very well and the progressive nature of the reimbursement provided incentive to make good grades.


The "corporate model" rewards behavior and provides incentive to work hard to achieve one's goals.  The "government model" simply redistributes "other peoples money" and doesn't care about results.

Imagine that....

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Lee_CPA2 

"The 'government model' simply redistributes 'other peoples money' and doesn't care about results."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 


You are simply wrong in your assumed and prejudicial statement, above.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Lee_CPA2 

I said every student who desires a college education and not every student will want to pursue a college education.  Moreover, some students, for various reasons, will not be able to see it through to an earned degree.  Natural attrition will take care of those students within a year or two, and the year or two those students will have spent in college will probably have elevated their competence, as well as their maturity.

When I lived in NYC, the City University of New York was created so that any student with the potential could attend any public college within that university system paid for by taxpayers.  They were wise enough to know that "investment in human resources is the wisest investment that they could make." 


May we become wiser to that fact, here.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I think that every student who desires to achieve a college education in the state of Georgia should be given the instructional delivery in grades 1 -12  to be ready to accomplish that goal.


Moreover, I believe that every student who desires to achieve a college education in the state of Georgia should be awarded the financial resources to achieve that end.


Thirdly, I believe that courses in the humanities and the arts in education are as valuable, if not more valuable, to our sustaining of life on this planet as are the STEM courses.



Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@MaryElizabethSings

"I think that every student who desires to achieve a college education in the state of Georgia should be given the instructional delivery in grades 1 -12  to be ready to accomplish that goal."


They already are.  They just have to hold up their end of the bargain.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Lee_CPA2 

You are a CPA, are you not?  I was a professional educator.  You know not of which you speak so arrogantly and boldly.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

This sounds like money in search of a problem with the problem being: how to give money to mostly white, smart, upper middle class kids and parents. Remember HOPE is a zero sum game and the money will probably have to be taken from other students.


There is no shortage of science and math majors/ workers. If there were a shortage, the market would correct it by paying higher and higher salaries.

Wrecker
Wrecker

@AvgGeorgian They do pay much higher salaries to science and technical/engineering workers.  There is a shortage of such employees.  The world (and Georgia) needs more workers with science backgrounds, not more English and psychology majors.  Thanks for interjecting race into a subject that has nothing to do with the issue (unless you are presupposing, in a racist way, that non-white students cannot or will not take STEM classes or pursue those majors).

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@AvgGeorgian 

If House Speaker Pro-Tem Jan Jones is for an educational goal in Georgia's legislature, imho, she is on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of educational delivery in Georgia, based on her previous legislative proposals and votes cast.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@AvgGeorgian If there is no shortage of Math and Science workers, why are three million high-tech jobs in the U.S. going unfilled?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Wrecker @AvgGeorgian


I researched GT demographics before I postulated my theory. 


I wasn't saying STEM salaries were not higher than most others, but rather not as high in market value as a "shortage" would demand. If companies pay enough money, then enough students will take on the task of paying for training to reap the rewards.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@CSpinks @AvgGeorgian

I have done some research on these supposed shortages and concluded that corporations flush with cash profits simply want justification to keep salaries suppressed/import foreign workers for lower wages and "plantation like" obedience.

altantamom
altantamom

There is an incredible amount of information out there about average GPAs for both courses and majors.   In this day of unlimited data and computer processing,  some sort of system could be set up to handicap classes or majors or universities.  There are many classes at Tech where the average GPA is 2.0 or less.  Show me a class anywhere else in the University System where this is the case. Those classes deserve a half point bump.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@altantamom 

I don't have the figures, but I would think that the science/medical classes in the Medical College of Augusta U.(a college that used to be the highly respected Medical College of Georgia) would qualify.


And do you really think that it would be feasible to single out one school? Ha!

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

I think that the state legislature will reach the same conclusions as Chancellor Huckaby, for this will prove to be a very political issue that entails extra $$ for the universities' STEM departments, and thus less for all the others. Changing these HOPE requirements will mean larger student enrollments in the STEM fields, and thus more faculty needed and more funds allocated.

altantamom
altantamom

@OriginalProf

While more faculty and funds will be needed in the STEM area, overall, it should be a wash.  I guess I don't understand the political nature of this, but I certainly believe you.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Also, on a more theoretical level, the term "difficult" is subjective and hard to define for it depends upon the student's innate aptitude. It is not a hard-and-fast empirical category. 


And what about the caliber of the school itself? Are STEM courses in the 4th ranked "access mission" 2-year colleges as difficult as such courses in the 1st ranked "research universities"? Why should STEM students in the 4th category get a reduced GPA requirement to keep their HOPEs while regular students in the 1st category don't? Is a STEM course in the 2-year colleges as "difficult" as one in the research universities?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@altantamom @OriginalProf 

How would it be a wash? The STEM courses are usually all within the one college of Arts and Sciences, which has a limited amount of funding for each department. If the STEM departments are suddenly enrolling more students, then they will get more money for the faculty to teach the classes; and the other departments will get less.

I don't mean Republican-Democratic "political," but "political" in the science of government or an organization.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@OriginalProf Chancellor Huckaby has a challenging job. It'll become even more challenging if Mr. GED is elected Chair of the GBOR.

Starik
Starik

Why not base the Hope on class standing rather than grades?  I'm sure nobody believes that a 3.0 reflect from Ga. Tech reflects the same work as a 3.0 from West Georgia or Georgia Southern.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Yes based on personal experience and self-interest:
1) I spent 4 years at Georgia Tech, 1+ years of undergrad work at other Georgia public colleges, and earned a masters degree at yet another Georgia public college.  

Georgia Tech was the ONLY place among all those where I ever earned less than an "A".  Indeed, my Ga Tech gpa was a little less than 3.0.

2) My son is studying engineering at Georgia Tech now.  A 0.5 bump on his STEM classes for Hope/Zell eligibility would be a big relief/help for him (and me).


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@AlreadySheared


I understand self interest, but in all fairness, If the job opportunities are so good for that difficult major, the student can borrow money and pay it back later with the high salary. That’s called paying your own way. No need to freeload.

Wrecker
Wrecker

@AvgGeorgian @AlreadySheared This is not "freeloading," but rather taking advantage of a program to educate workers.  Science and technical workers are more valuable to our economy and society than sociology majors.