Bill would nudge HOPE scholars to take tougher classes

Barrie Maguire NewsArt

Barrie Maguire NewsArt

Those of us who studied on the HOPE scholarship’s dime are familiar with a thought that goes through many college students’ minds as they enroll in courses or choose a major: If I take this, can I keep my 3.0?

HOPE might not cover full tuition anymore, but there are still thousands of dollars at stake for remaining eligible for it. From a short-term financial perspective, it’s a no-brainer between taking an easy-A course or risking a C in a harder one. Without casting aspersions on anyone’s degree, it’s noteworthy that Georgia’s public colleges last year graduated twice as many English majors (764) as chemists (369).

Yet, taking a longer view — or the state’s perspective — the harder courses may lead to jobs that are more plentiful, and higher-paying, as we move deeper into the 21st century. It seems counterproductive to help students attend college, only to give them a perverse incentive to avoid the classes and majors that will give them an edge in the job market. That goes double for students from low-income families, who are more likely to drop out if they lose HOPE.

Some of those concerns could be allayed if legislators pass a bill to be introduced this week by Rep. Jan Jones. The Milton Republican, and No. 2 leader in the House, wants to give students the same half-point boost to their GPAs for taking tough college courses that they get for taking advanced classes in high school. That works out to 3.5 points instead of 3 for a B, 2.5 instead of 2 for a C, and 1.5 instead of 1 for a D. (There would be no change for A’s or F’s.)

“We have a history of encouraging rigor in HOPE,” says Jones, noting the state in the past added similar bonuses for high schoolers who take Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or college classes. “Certainly in recent years, we’ve continued to refine HOPE. When you recognize you only have so many resources, how (can HOPE) best meet the workforce development needs and individuals’ needs?”

The bill would direct the Board of Regents to identify specific courses in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics that are “academically rigorous and required for or leading to employment in high demand fields in Georgia.” That last part about “in Georgia” is key: Our state will need to fill an estimated 161,988 jobs in health care, computing and engineering over the next 10 years. Classes that lead to such jobs would qualify, beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

“You can still go into any field,” says Jones, “but there is a message that the state is prioritizing … classes for which a job awaits.”

She adds that she wrote the bill to target courses, rather than majors, to broaden its reach: “Maybe if you take a few of these (while majoring in a different field), it inspires you after you graduate to go on” and pursue a job or graduate degree in that field.

As growing companies look for places to expand or relocate, Jones says the change would also be “another tool in our toolbox, that we are actively creating a prepared work force” in the skills employers seek.

And that is one of the best hopes for Georgia’s economy.

Reader Comments 0

10 comments
AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

If GA Tech is taking in kids that are not smart enough to keep a 3.7 or 3.0, then they should accept it or recruit smarter kids. If an “A” fairly represents a high level of mastery and STEM students are not at that level, there is a problem with the student or the course work. Maybe adjustments need to be made elsewhere. What did the professor’s TKES have to say about this and do those student scores count against his/her overall eval?

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@AvgGeorgian

Or, since Tech can already fill it's incoming classes with kids who got 4.0's in high school and virtually every degree they award is in a field Georgia wants and needs, perhaps every Tech student from Georgia should get an entirely free ride.

Simply shift HOPE money from the lesser schools (that's all of them) to pay for it.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

A colleague and I did a study of HOPE in NW Georgia more than a decade ago.  One part involved interviewing all the high school counselors. I posed the rigor question, along with a question about grade inflation.  EVERY SINGLE COUNSELOR assured me that id didn't happen at THEIR school, but now at that school just down the road....it was happening.  Rather funny to hear that from EVERY one of them!

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Hard to argue that punishing kids for challenging themselves is a good thing.

TBS
TBS

Kyle

I see some merit in the proposed changes.

However I would like to know how much has changed in the types of degrees students are attempting to obtain since the advent of hope.

The following statement in and of itself may or may not have anything to do with Hope:


"Without casting aspersions on anyone’s degree, it’s noteworthy that Georgia’s public colleges last year graduated twice as many English majors (764) as chemists (369)."



Maybe it does but is there are additional data to show some sort of correlation or causation? 

I agree the state needs to get more kids excited about STEM based educations and degrees but would like to know has HOPE been a driving factor in what types of degrees kids are seeking to obtain. 


Thanks

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Maybe if our children were made aware of the salaries being paid for jobs in different fields at an earlier date? I used to be asked to talk to school kids about engineering and the opportunities out there. I asked what do they expect when they turn on a faucet. I reminded them that someone had to design the pipe system delivering and removing the water. Someone had to design the water treatment plants. Some one had to analyze the issues/problems and the chemistry.


I remember one lad who asked me what I was paid as an engineer. I quoted him our opening employment salary for an engineer which was $55-60K (I started my career making $14K in 1975).

He was from a middle/upper class family. He retorted that he would not take a job just out of college making less than $100K . I look at his teacher, and her yes rolled to the top of her head.


Don't get me wrong. As a kid I cut grass. I unloaded freight cars and trailers. I worked as a carpenters' helper. I surveyed I 20 west in Georgia....when the Interstate did not exist.  I know hard work. I know how hot and cold the weather can be while doing a physical job.


Seems like this is lowering the bar just like reducing the passing grade on the GED and exit tests. Kids have to embrace knowledge.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@RoadScholar I'm guessing that a student smart enough to get in GT is smart enough to google salaries for STEM grads.


Apparently the salaries are not motivation enough to work harder or borrow money to pay your own way.


If they don't know how to google salaries, well, I guess we need not prop them up academically. 

Caius
Caius

As noted previously HOPE is not a gift of taxpayer money.  The HOPE money is a gift to the state from certain individuals..


I completely agree with your last sentence.