Georgia college students will now earn HOPE GPA boost in many science and math classes

A complaint that began at Georgia Tech has led to a new HOPE policy that will benefit STEM students statewide.

Georgia Tech students long lamented they lost their HOPE Scholarships because their science and math classes were tougher than what many peers at other colleges were taking. Their contention: There should be some allowance for demanding courses like quantum computing or organic chemistry.

In 2016, the Legislature said Tech students had a valid point and passed a law that added 0.5 to a B, C or D in approved STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — classes. That is the same bump now awarded to high school students who enroll in advanced courses.

The boost goes into effect for the first time this semester for students receiving HOPE or Zell Miller scholarships at public or private campuses. To find out what classes qualify for the grade enhancement, go here. The courses were selected based on their connection to high demand career fields. Many of these classes are taken by students in their first two years of college.

The list shows both Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State with 107 classes. Emory has 149 classes on the list, while the University of Georgia has 147.  Georgia State has 72.

I am not sure how well known this new policy is as it wasn’t mentioned at the Georgia Tech and UGA orientations I attended with my twins, and most parents were surprised and delighted when I told them about it.

In approving the GPA bonus, lawmakers reasoned that Georgia loses when future computer engineers lose HOPE. Job growth in Georgia will be in the STEM and health care sectors, and the state is under-producing graduates in those fields.

A study found that fear of losing the HOPE Scholarship had reduced the number of Georgia students willing to pursue challenging science and math degrees. Researchers at Georgia and Oklahoma State universities found state merit-based scholarships, including HOPE, reduce the likelihood a student will earn a degree in a STEM field. An earlier GSU study found the HOPE Scholarship reduced the likelihood of a student earning a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, citing a 12.6 percent decrease in the number of STEM graduates. The study said the decline was the result of initial STEM majors switching to another major.

To retain 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.

Here is the official Regents release:

Beginning fall 2017, students will receive a boost to their college HOPE GPA for specific, rigorous STEM courses typically offered during the first two years of college. Each HOPE-eligible college in Georgia will add 0.5 to the postsecondary HOPE GPA calculation in specific, approved STEM courses if the grade is a B, C or D.

House Bill 801, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore, Representative Jan Jones, R-Milton, and designed to incentivize students to choose a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field of study, was passed during the 2016 legislative session. After signing HB 801 into law, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed the HB 801 Task Force to determine which courses meet the requirements to receive this new postsecondary HOPE GPA boost.

“I am confident this new initiative will encourage more Georgia students to enroll in STEM classes that will lead to career fields where we have jobs waiting for them,” said Gov. Deal.

The courses currently approved are ones required to obtain a major leading to one or more of the STEM career fields that require at least a bachelor’s degree and are considered to be in high demand in Georgia. The University System of Georgia (USG), the Georgia Independent College Association (GICA) and the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) worked collaboratively, along with input from the
Georgia Department of Economic Development regarding high demand careers, to draft an initial list of rigorous STEM courses eligible for weighting.

“This initiative will encourage our young people to develop the 21st century skills demanded in STEM fields and make Georgia even more competitive in attracting high tech companies to locate and expand in our state,” said Speaker Pro Tempore Jones.

This “STEM Weighted Course List” will be reviewed on an annual basis by the STEM Weighted Course Approval Council, which will have representatives from USG, GICA, TCSG, GSFC and others.

Reader Comments 0

33 comments
stephop
stephop

The right way to award the HOPE Scholarship fairly is consider context, such as the population of the student's university and the rigor of the student's curriculum. Evaluating one student at one university against all students at all universities in the state, even with points added for STEM courses, is very deceiving. For example, the average GPA of students at Tech is considerably lower than that of all students collectively at all universities in the state--and rightfully so, due to the rigor of the typical Tech curriculum. Does a student majoring in electrical engineering at Tech with a 2.8 GPA not deserve the Hope scholarship, while a student majoring in restaurant management at uga with a 3.0 GPA does? Something's just not right about that. The GPA for each student should be statistically normalized based on population and rigor factors.The current policy for the Hope Scholarship certainly creates a disincentive for students to choose difficult universities and majors.

bicami
bicami

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Tamika Wright
Tamika Wright

Oh but of course after my daughter lost hers 2 years ago as a computer science major at Georgia State when she slipped to a 2.98 average and it takes a year before they will even review your grades again....it was tough and EXPENSIVE but she walked in May

John Huff
John Huff

Tiffani Huff Timothy John Huff Lori Leitch Huff

Wendy Farmer
Wendy Farmer

Thank Goodness!!! Georgia Tech students like my son studying engineering will finally get to use it. Right now at Tech a 3.0 gets you on the Dean's list but a 2.9 causes a student to lose the Hope Scholarship altogether.

redweather
redweather

The number of college students planning to go into teaching continues to shrink. Experts predict a "teacher shortage" in the coming decade. I would like to ask House Speaker Pro Tempore, Representative Jan Jones, R-Milton, who sponsored this legislation, if she plans to sponsor legislation adding 0.5 points to grades in courses taken by education students in order to "encourage our young people" to go into teaching?

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

I point out in my column that the law was passed in 2016, and I wrote about it a lot then. But the law only kicks in starting this semester. It was not in effect until now. (High school kids got a bump from tough courses to earn HOPE, but college students did not get a bump in tough classes to keep HOPE.)

kaelyn
kaelyn

Someone explain to me how this is even remotely fair when Redan HS offers three STEM AP classes, while Dunwoody HS offers eight. Redan has an eighty percent free lunch rate and Dunwoody's rate is thirty percent. I imagine the same comparisons could be made between rural and suburban schools in the state, with the rural students having far fewer AP opportunities.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather


Agree completely. Isn't it implicit that any student that aspires to attend GT expects to be challenged academically? Why on earth would they expect any kind of artificial boost to their innate abilities?


I'm also worried that this opens the door to other jiggery-pokery to achieve political ends when it becomes expedient. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Why is this points boost given to D grades? Those are passing but just below an F.

Laurie8750
Laurie8750

How many classes will fall under this category at KSU?  Why are only Georgia Tech and UGA mentioned?  Does this rule only apply to them?

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Laurie8750 107 classes at KSU. Every HOPE eligible college in the state of Georgia -- including privates --  is on the list. I put the links in the post so you can go and see the actual list of courses. And I included just a few examples as there are lots of colleges on the list, including the technical colleges.

The list shows both Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State with 107 classes. Emory has 149 classes on the list, while the University of Georgia has 147.  Georgia State has 72.

ErnestB
ErnestB

@MaureenDowney @Laurie8750


Thanks for sharing this list!  My twins are seniors this year however I sent the link to them in case they are taking a class on the list.  Better late than never I guess.

Rhonda Koplin
Rhonda Koplin

High school students should enroll in Move on When Ready, take college courses for free.

happyinga
happyinga

No this is a cheap imitation of real college work and could hurt students in the long run.

goodoleguy
goodoleguy

@happyinga How so happyinga? My daughter spent her hs senior year in the move on when ready program and is now beginning college as a sophomore. She was able to knock out most of her core level classes and will begin one  major class this fall. How is it a cheap imitation of real college work? She sat in courses with college freshman/sophomores completing the same assignments.

Todd71
Todd71

@happyinga I agree with @goodoleguy . My son finished his Freshman year in college while in HS, graduating top 10%, and my daughter received her AA on stage at HS graduation while maintaining her rank as 6th in her class. Both of them were in classes with "regular" college students and outperforming them. My daughter is now currently carrying a 4.0 at Florida State University, with scholarships lined up to pay for her graduate work. It may hurt students with less ambition and drive, or ones that rely on extrinsic motivation, but it certainly won't hurt a self-motivated student.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Todd71 @happyinga @goodoleguy My kids were in IB Diploma so they could not take dual enrollment as they were locked into a schedule. When I asked a guidance counselor at the high school why there was so little reference to the DE option overall, she told me the school felt it provided more challenging courses through IB and AP than did DE. 

And I have had college folks admit a preference for IB and AP over DE, saying there is more intellectual heft to those high school-based courses than many intro courses at local colleges. That said, I still see a lot of benefits to DE and would encourage parents to consider.

Melissa Langley Thompson
Melissa Langley Thompson

DE is a waste of time for many and doesn't help the student any more than AP courses. It depends on which system your student is in and which college/university they are trying to get into. My daughter was in a lower performing system and her choice school informed her they do not typically accept AP credits from there. It pays to be informed and have those conversations and plan ahead accordingly. By choosing MOWR a student is actually taking college courses and can complete a program of study. Then by conferring a degree, all classes are transferable within the university system.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Well, I think it makes sense. You reward what you want to encourage.


Of course, to some folks these type courses are easier than courses in the humanities.  My younger daughter would have far rather taken diff eq than English 101!  In fact, she took 101 all by itself one summer, while one semester she had 4 math/stem courses on the list.  To each of us are given different gifts.

redweather
redweather

Looks like grade inflation to me.

ErnestB
ErnestB

Great news for students willing to take difficult STEM classes.  I wonder if there will be discussion about differentiating qualified STEM teachers' salaries in K-12.  The same logic for providing the value point for HOPE also applies for STEM teachers, if we want highly qualified STEM teachers, we need to pay them slightly more as an incentive.

atlmom
atlmom

@ErnestB it's against teacher contracts to do that though.  When I lived in Atlanta there was a program, it seemed sort of through a non profit, to give math teachers bonuses to 'bump up' their salaries.  But I was under the impression that couldn't be done by the school district.

ErnestB
ErnestB

@atlmom @ErnestB


Thanks for the input.  I well say that contracts/poloicies can be change, if for a good reason.

Another comment
Another comment

They have not addressed the other issue of the STEM degrees, and that is the 127 credit hour limit. Most Stem degrees require more than 127 hrs, or the programs are so rigidly structured that you must take certain classes in the fall and spring of every year that are in order.

The BSN nursing program at Georgia State has morphed into a 2 year prenursing program. Then you and many from outside Ga State compete again for the 6 semester nursing program ( that only can be done in Fall and Spring Semesters). At the end of Semester 10, any students that have maintained the HOPE run out of it for their final semester. For the last few years Ga State's cut score to move from Pre Nursing to Nursing has been 3.6-3.7 range. Most of the mandatory classes are listed on the list.

The same problem exists in Architecture and Engineering programs they Generally require 130 -133 plus credits. I completed an Architecture degree out of state and it required 133 hrs. I took 18-21 hrs a semester and then took 6 credit hours of electives at a community college to graduate in 4 years. I have an MS in Engineering and have supervised both. It is rare for Engineers to complete degrees in just 4 years.

I had lots of GA Tech and others Engineering and Architecture school grads with GPAs between 2.5-2.8. My Employeer required me to obtain a copy of their college transcripts to verify degrees.

I don't understand why they did not make it retroactive at least for the last three years.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Another comment Here is a "back in the old days" story: My dad took a BS in EE from Duke in 3 years, before the advent of credit for life learning, CLEP or AP!

David Emory Stooksbury
David Emory Stooksbury

It is only for lower division courses. Many STEM students make it through these courses o.k. - or they probably should not be in STEM. It is the upper division courses, especially at the 3000 level, where many hit the wall.

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

At UGA orientation, three upperclassmen manning a desk at the dorm were all chem majors, and they told me the first chem classes are the toughest as the classes are designed to weed out kids. One of them took organic chemistry during the summer at another college just for that reason. She said she did fine in all the subsequent chemistry classes at UGA and was now applying to medical schools. But she said that first class is a hurdle many kids don't clear. Schools say they don't use these classes to cull the ranks, but students disagree.

David Emory Stooksbury
David Emory Stooksbury

Intro Chem is apparently hard. Most engineering students seem to make ti through the 1000/2000 level math and physics courses just fine then hit the 3000 level engineering courses.

Another comment
Another comment

I was the President of the Engineering Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi at the University that I obtained my first degree. In order for an Engineering or Architecture student to be considered for Tau Beta Pi, they must be in the top 1/8 (12.5%) of their class their Junior Year and then additional people made the criteria senior year because it was the top 1/5 ( 20%). As the President for two years I was able to go to the National convention. I was also on our Universities selection Committee.

Here is what does students is the Calculus classes especially Freshman year. Their is a wide variation of how people are prepared going into college. When I was in college we had the Middle Eastern students ( From Iran) that busted the curve and the pace the class was at. Today it is the Asian cohort. It just wasn't the Kids from rural public schools that were under prepared, but some of the wealthiest students from private schools. I new some that were stuck on the first year Calculus classes in Jr. and senior year. My advise is go to the counseling center and get a tutor. My university provided them for free.

Then Physics was the big stumbling in my courses for many. My particular major you could avoid Chemistry.

Those that can't avoid Chemistry it is a big stumbling block.

Then a big problem is the lack of professors and now Teaching assistants that are native US English speakers. I added and dropped classes to avoid those who I could not understand. I here that has gotten nearly impossible to do today. When I was in Engineering Grad school the school made every effort to give Teaching assistantships to the American born graduates. The foreign students who did not have the language mastery were given Research assistanships. Their are also big cultural issues with some of these professors and TA's from Foriegn Countries. They are not respectful to women or diversity.

I would also suggest that any class you can take in the smallest environment possible, increases your chance for sucess. Many large Engineering Schools have in the past been noted to have Engineering 101 classes that have several hundred students in then whittle down to 1/2 or 1/4 by the end of the year.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

The into level courses in science and math are certainly sorter classes at UGa!