HOPE Scholarship White Paper Proposed by the Student Government Association of Georgia Institute of Technology,
Georgia Tech College Republicans, & the College Democrats at Georgia Tech February 1, 2011
Background: The HOPE Scholarship was created in 1993 to reward exceptional high school students with free tuition at Georgia colleges and universities. Since its inception, over 1.4 million high school students have been beneficiaries of this lottery‐funded scholarship. Additionally, fifteen states replicated Georgia’s success with the HOPE scholarship and instituted their own lottery‐funded scholarships for higher education. However, due to increasing demand by Georgia students and decreasing revenue from the lottery system, the HOPE scholarship faces extinction unless programs are cut back, modified, and new revenue is generated. This fiscal year, the HOPE scholarship will be short by $243 million and by as much as $317 million next year. Law makers tapped into the state’s reserve fund for millions to keep the program afloat last year.
Proposal: The students of Georgia Tech propose the following modifications to the existing HOPE scholarship, and we encourage our lawmakers to take our policy recommendations seriously. The HOPE Scholarship has been the gem of Georgia’s education system for many years, and now we are called to be innovative and induce foresight to preserve this scholarship that offers higher education to so many worthy students. We propose the following: 1. Generate new revenue to sustain HOPE scholarship 2. Exclude remedial courses from HOPE scholarship 3. Lower prekindergarten funding 4. Ensure that for‐profit institutions are left out of the equation of the HOPE scholarship 5. Increase high school GPA requirement and couple with an ACT/SAT requirement The HOPE Scholarship should aim to fund 100% of tuition costs for qualified students. To meet the original intent of the merit scholarship, students who deserve HOPE in Georgia should not have to go into debt in order to cover tuition costs. Every dime matters to some Georgia student with a dream for a college education.
1. New revenue: Revenues from the HOPE Scholarship are solely based on the lottery system, one of the most successful lottery systems in the country. However, the Georgia lottery system is incapable of keeping up with rising costs and student enrollment. Our lawmakers need to work with the Lottery Corporation to ensure that our State’s appropriations are in line with the national average or explore alternative means of revenue for the scholarship. Lawmakers need to embrace new forms of revenue, rather than make unnecessary cuts to the program. We propose a combination of revenue from Sunday alcohol sales tax and a lottery‐regulated casino using video lottery terminals (VLTs). • Support SB 10 and HB 69: Roughly $67 million in sales tax revenue could be collected from Sunday sales. If appropriated to the HOPE scholarship, this revenue would help sustain the program for years to come, while giving counties the autonomy to choose to offer Sunday alcohol sales. Georgia is one of three states in the nation that prohibits Sunday sales. • Lottery‐regulated Casino in Underground Atlanta: Developers Dan O'Leary and John Aderhold have proposed a VLT casino that could increase HOPE revenue by 40%. Based off projections by owner of Underground Atlanta, a gaming‐terminal casino could reap $300 million annually after the completion of a hotel and entertainment complex. Redeveloping Underground Atlanta would not only bring jobs and stability to the downtown area, but also keep gambling money in the state. Georgians currently go to Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and North Carolina to gamble, taking their money to those states. Horse racing is another possibility for new revenue. Millions of additional tax dollars would help reduce state budget cuts.
2. Exclude Remedial Courses The HOPE scholarship is designated for high performing high school students to keep them in Georgia colleges and universities. It is incredibly difficult to justify that a student is qualified to receive a merit based scholarship if he or she is not adequately prepared for college. Therefore, we propose to exclude all remedial courses from the HOPE scholarship. Few private scholarships would support remedial courses, and there is no reason why our limited lottery funds should pay for students who are not adequately prepared to meet the challenges of higher education.
3. Reduce PreK funding About 82,000 preschoolers are currently enrolled in the state’s free pre‐kindergarten program funded by the state lottery. There is no doubt that preparing children for early success paves the way for a successful K‐12 experience. However, if college students must make concessions, the Pre‐K program and the Technical System in our great state must make equitable concessions. Programs such as Federally‐ funded Head Start and private Pre‐K programs run by local churches can fill the gaps left by reduced funding for the Pre‐K program. Parents, committed to send their children to their church’s Pre‐K program will still send their children to the program, even if they have to pay a premium. Georgians who are from at‐risk backgrounds may take advantage of Federal programs. The Georgia lottery serves many constituencies and it is our belief that ALL constituencies should make equitable concessions.
4. Limit funding forprofit institutions Students at for profit institutions should not receive unlimited HOPE funding. While we fundamentally believe that limiting a student’s choice is wrong, opening the floodgates of HOPE funding to for profit institutions is wrong. If the goal of the HOPE scholarship is to keep qualified Georgia students in the state, then making funds available to schools whose origins are out of the state is flawed policy. It would be very difficult to prove that a student maintains residence in the state of Georgia when a school does not maintain a significant presence in the state. Additionally, a college should have origins in the State of Georgia in order to receive funding from the HOPE scholarship.
5. Increase High School GPA & pair with ACT/SAT score The HOPE scholarship is to reward exceptional high school students and keep the best Georgia minds in the state. A 3.0 high school GPA alone does not indicate significant merit. This is further illustrated by the disparate manner in which high schools award grade point averages to AP, and Accelerated courses. We propose high school GPA tier system as follows: • • •
3.75 GPA + 1200 SAT= 100% tuition 3.5 GPA + 1100 SAT= 85% tuition 3.25 + 1000 SAT= 80% tuition
Any student who maintains a 3.0 college GPA for two semesters is eligible for 100% tuition funding. This will eliminate some costs for first year funding since all students entering college will not receive 100% tuition. Grade inflation should not be a concern if GPA is paired with a national standardized testing score such as the SAT or ACT. Additionally, a higher GPA requirement will incentivize students to work harder to receive the HOPE scholarship. Not every student can be a recipient of this scholarship, and with increasing competition and enrollment rates, a higher standard of achievement is appropriate to receive the scholarship.
Conclusion Making the right decision will not be easy, but we know that, as our elected officials, you can and will legislate what is best for our state. We believe that the changes discussed in this proposal‐ generating new revenue, excluding remedial courses, lowering prekindergarten funding, limiting funding to for‐ profit institutions and increasing high school requirements‐ are what will most effectively preserve the mission of the HOPE scholarship. However, should changes to the college‐level HOPE requirements be considered, an across the board increase in GPA is not a practical option. Such a change would incentivize students to study less rigorous programs in order to ensure that they can continue to afford college. Now more than ever, it is imperative that Georgia students are encouraged and supported in the study of rigorous fields like the sciences, engineering, and mathematics. We also would like to encourage our lawmakers to recognize that decreasing appropriations to higher education will only perpetuate the issue at hand. We thank the Georgia General Assembly for their
commitment to higher education and ask that the Legislature continue to honor its commitment to supporting the University System of Georgia and higher education.