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HOPE needs to be reevaluated

Published: Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Updated: Thursday, September 9, 2010 13:09


Robert S. Donovan

The HOPE program is facing a $550 million shortfall.

The economy has delivered the University System of Georgia a series of harsh budget cuts and tuition increases, but Georgia's lottery-funded scholarship, HOPE, has not escaped unscathed either.

According to Business Week, the program is facing a $550 million shortfall.

Several suggestions have been offered for remedying the funding problem. Lawmakers have suggested covering 70 percent of tuition instead of 100 percent or raising the 3.0 GPA requirement to 3.5.

Many students like me rely on HOPE to cover tuition costs in order to attend college. Lowering this coverage could cause numerous financial difficulties for students who rely on HOPE to cover their tuition.

Academically speaking, some institutions are also more challenging and have a more rigorous curriculum than others. For example, a 3.5 GPA at Georgia Tech is more challenging to maintain than a 3.5 at Valdosta State University.

If you were to increase the minimum GPA requirement, the majority of the scholarship funds would go to students in these lower-tier schools.

According to the Governor's Office of Student Achievement, some Georgia high schools are giving out A's to students who can't pass "end of course" tests to get them the HOPE scholarship so they can attend college. Raising the GPA requirement would only make this problem worse.

A problem resulting from this grade inflation is poor academic quality in the university system itself.

In my basic introduction to media writing class during my freshman year, the professor spent three 50-minute class periods teaching the parts of speech. You know, those important things that you use to construct a sentence: nouns, verbs, and adjectives, for example. If you don't know your parts of speech and how to construct a decent sentence, you sure won't get far in journalism.

If the grade inflation continues or worsens, more college students will be taking remedial classes to learn what they should have in high school. Some may not even be prepared for college-level classes, period.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated that 40 percent of entering freshmen will not graduate college. It is not unreasonable to assume that HOPE plays a role in this. If a student loses HOPE after their freshman year, they will not be able to afford school.

There is some accountability that the high schools of Georgia must take in preparing their students for college. We cannot automatically set them up for failure.

However, it is obvious that our lottery-funded scholarship program is in need of some major financial reconstruction if it will continue to be a value asset to Georgia students.

In an article published in Creative Loafing, Mara Shalhoup alludes to a portion of the problem. She says that Georgia students with a 3.0 GPA feel entitled to HOPE.

Seeing as I graduated from an unaccredited home-school program, I did not receive HOPE for my freshman year at Georgia State. In order to get the HOPE scholarship, I had to prove my academic worth by achieving a 3.0 GPA by the end of 30 credit hours and then applying.

So while most freshmen lost their HOPE scholarship in their first year, I was striving to prove myself to get HOPE just because I didn't graduate from an accredited program.

As it stands now, a student whose GPA dips below the golden 3.0 minimum can win back HOPE once their grades recover.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, nearly half of students lose HOPE after their freshman year because they failed to meet the 3.0 minimum after 30 hours.

To save money and the academic integrity of our university system, we should eliminate the second chance to get HOPE back.

Those who work hard in high school and continue to work hard in college are the ones who deserve the HOPE scholarship. These are the students who should be entitled to the money.

By having a "use it or lose it" mentality, students may be more inclined and motivated to work to keep their scholarships.

In its restructuring, lawmakers need to be tougher when it comes to selecting HOPE recipients. In order to establish and increase the academic quality of Georgia public universities, those who are not serious about their educations need to be weeded out from those who excel academically.

Demanding more merit from college students is a reasonable expectation when supplying a 100 percent tuition-covering scholarship.

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