Special report: HOPE Scholarship at 20

The program has changed a lot over the past two decades. Should we still be optimistic?

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When the first HOPE scholars were freshmen twenty years ago, Georgia’s scholarship program looked very different from today. It covered two years of tuition at any public college in Georgia for B students whose household income was $66,000 or less. When the brand-new lottery met its annual sales target in five months, then exceeded $1 billion in revenue by year’s end, the state expanded the program to four years and added coverage for books and fees. The next year, the legislature revoked the income cap. But by 2004, the joyride was over. Faced with skyrocketing costs, lawmakers started making cutbacks. They tweaked the formula for calculating high school GPAs, quit covering fees, and made it tougher for college students to keep HOPE. In 2011 there were even more radical changes.

Still, Georgia is the second most generous state in the country to its college students. And our scholarships are widely viewed as the gold standard for dozens of other state and federal aid programs. This month, as high school seniors send off their college applications and lawmakers gear up to debate even more changes, we take a hard look at the state of HOPE.

> HOPE Scholarship: The cons: Did the legislature’s 2011 reforms ruin HOPE?

> HOPE Scholarship: The pros: The program has surpassed its goals. So why are people complaining?

> HOPE Scholarship by the numbers: The story explained in graphs

> Our recommendation: Get rid of the Zell

This article originally appeared in our January 2014 issue.

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Comments

  1. chris

    May 22, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    The success of the program and the initial success of the funding levels from the Georgia lottery almost became the downfall of the hope scholarship program. The intoxication of large amounts of funding available from the lottery caused an expansion in the program to the extent that the financial crisis of the 2008-2010 time period almost brought down the program. Fortunately, the legislature added rigor requirements and placed controls on the program (capping awards, no fees, etc…) and, as a result, bolstered the program and brought it through the funding issues of the period.

    There is still a tendency to expand the program to more students and more causes; hopefully, the legislature will learn its lesson from the past and keep the program more focused.