Our best HOPE may be rethinking a cherished program

Barrie Maguire NewsArt

Barrie Maguire NewsArt

Legislators studying the “preservation of the HOPE scholarship” have spent a lot more time talking about casinos than colleges. That being the case, it’s an open question what “preservation” means.

Or whether “preservation” is even the right goal.

Five years ago, HOPE recipients at Georgia Tech or the University of Georgia could expect all of their tuition to be paid by lottery funds. Today it’s about 77 percent, except for those who qualify for the newer Zell Miller Scholarship and still have their tuition fully covered — although not fees and a stipend for books, as HOPE originally provided.

Just returning to full tuition for all HOPE scholars could quickly eat up the program’s estimated share of $280 million in revenues the state would get if casinos were legalized. And that’s before any further tuition hikes.

If so, a restoration of HOPE to its former glory would seem to be off the table, and “preservation” could simply mean reducing the value of the scholarship more slowly over time. That makes for a rather less decent proposal for legalizing casinos.

Lawmakers could try to squeeze more money out of casinos with a higher tax rate, but they’d probably have to double or even triple the take to restore “full HOPE” for very long. Even then, they’d merely be penciling in a future date at which we had the same conversation about the program we’ve been having since 2011.

So if restoration isn’t feasible and preservation isn’t likely, lawmakers will need to find another goal for HOPE. How about a transformation?

The original premise of full tuition for all qualifying students, at all public colleges, in all degree programs, may not be the right one anymore. My friend Charlie Harper recently raised this question at an event for his think tank, Policy BEST. I think it’s worth examining.

The deal has already been changed in our technical colleges, where the HOPE Grant covers all tuition only for certain “high demand” programs. Is there room for such consideration among our four-year colleges?

There’s also the question of whether we get the best bang for our buck by covering tuition for students from the get-go, only to watch as roughly half of HOPE scholars lose their eligibility after just one year. In fact, the best indicator of whether students will graduate may be whether they have HOPE after their first year.

The University System of Georgia reports six-year graduation rates for first-time freshmen entering its colleges between 1999 and 2008. Interestingly, students who entered college with HOPE from 2003 to 2008 were no more likely to graduate than those didn’t have it until after their first year. What’s more, whether they started with HOPE or not, those students who were eligible for the scholarship after their freshman year graduated at a 76 percent rate. Among all others who started college with them, only 25 percent graduated.

So maybe, as longtime Georgia political activist Virginia Galloway suggested at a legislative hearing in Savannah last month, students could pay their first year’s tuition and then get a refund if they’re still eligible for HOPE. The state could then pay as they go, as long as they remain eligible.

The opportunity regarding HOPE may not lie in finding new tax revenues to pump into it. Rather, this may be our chance to make the program as smart as the students who depend on it.

Reader Comments 0

13 comments
FIGMO2
FIGMO2

An interesting article given your topic, Kyle.

State Gambling Revenue Takes Hit as Millennials Bring New Habits to Casinos

Casinos across the nation are suffering from a generation gap, especially at the slot machines, as young people seek more exotic electronic games like the ones they can play on smartphones from anywhere.

That’s a problem not just for casino operators, but for the 23 states that rely on revenue from casino taxes, particularly from lucrative slots, to help balance their budgets and fund new priorities.

http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2015/09/15/state-gambling-revenue-takes-hit-as-millennials-bring-new-habits-to-casinos

Odd seein's how millennials are the ones sitting on huge debt for student loans. 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Students enroll with their LITERAL skin in the game. Parkin' their butts in the chairs with the intention of learning, not playing with opportunity.

Again, EXCELLENT idea.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Retroactive payment based on proactive participation in the first year.

Excellent!

332-206
332-206

Good idea.

No chance in an election year.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

Wouldn't waiting until the second year be contrary to the original goal? Poor kids would need a massive loan to get through their first year. It would probably take the best schools immediately off the list and they would start at lesser schools. The goal was to create a meritocracy to help poor kids. They would be stuck at a lesser school even if they get HOPE lowering their chance of success in life.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara "Poor kids would need a massive loan to get through their first year."

What's worse: Getting less of a scholarship for four years, requiring loans, or getting a loan for the first year that would be canceled upon earning a 3.0?

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

That's a false choice. We can do nothing or let them get full scholarships based on needs or a bunch of other things. It's not one or the other. We can do many, many things at this point. One idea is not the full universe of ideas and status quo doesn't need to be maintained.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara I'm saying it's probably not all that different from the situation now -- and arguably better -- not that those are the only choices.

Caius
Caius

I agree with Road, good column.


"The original premise of full tuition for all qualifying students, at all public colleges, in all degree programs, may not be the right one anymore."

As I recall the original HOPE was tied to family income for qualification.  We might want to look at that as part of the solution. HOPE is not tax money but proceeds from a state gambling operation, so "fair" should not be an issue. 

I rather like the idea of making HOPE a loan instead of a grant.  Cancel the loan upon acceptable grades.  You are given a loan of 2 semesters tuition, make the grades, the loan is cancelled and renewed for another 2 semesters.  But that creates problems of collecting money from those with unacceptable grades.



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Caius The problem with an income cap is where it'd have to be set. Back in 2012 I looked at the stats because the Dems proposed a $140K cap. At that time, it would have immediately cut one-third of students out. And given trends at the time, it would have soon resulted in a situation where a kid whose mother was a teacher and father was a police officer wouldn't have qualified. I don't think that's what anyone has in mind.

I haven't looked at the numbers more recently, but I have seen nothing to make me think the situation has changed dramatically.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Interesting concepts. I like the one where the student, upon completion of their first year maintaining their eligibility, gets reimbursed at the end of the first year. That money could then pay for a second year, and if they still meet the criteria, they get reimbursed for the second year at the end of their sophomore studies. etc. etc.


So many students enter college that need remedial studies. A college professor has told me many students are not prepared, even though they may have satisfactory HS grade point averages.


Good column.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RoadScholar "That money could then pay for a second year"

To be clear, the idea was to reimburse them for money already spent -- there would need to be additional money for future spending. Most likely, we'd be talking about loans that would be canceled upon verification the student still had a 3.0 GPA. But it would do one of two things: Prevent us from spending money on students who are unlikely to graduate anyway, or encourage more students to study hard their first year and thus produce more graduates. The latter wouldn't necessarily reduce our costs, but it would mean we were getting more for our money and give us a better reason to find more money.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Kyle_Wingfield @RoadScholar My wife paid for her college thru loans and working one to three jobs at a time. Her parents gave her the car ride to the school , dropped her off, and never asked if she needed anything. If they could get a fed loan initially, the payout from hope would pay that loan off upon graduating!


It's called delayed compensation.