In 1993 the then governor of Georgia, Zell Miller, created the Hope Scholarship Program. HOPE stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally and the Georgia Student Finance Commission manages it. It has certainly been one of the most successful state programs ever created. The program is still in use today and though it has been modified from its original form, it is still providing thousands of dollars annually to students college bound and in college.
The Hope Scholarship Program is funded exclusively by the Georgia Lottery Program, also created by Georgia governor, Zell Miller, in 1993. This scholarship program was considered to be so successful, the federal scholarship program was changed by President Clinton in 1995 to be more like it. One can see the success of the scholarship program in the ever increasing amounts of scholarship money handed out to Georgia students. In the inaugural year of the scholarship program, 1993 to 1994, 21.4 million dollars was awarded to students. In the most recent calculation of school year 2010 to 2011, 679 million dollars was awarded to students.
For every dollar given to a hard working student, their success and eventual graduation is more secure. The requirements of the Hope Scholarship are also very reasonable to meet. A student simply has to be a Georgia student enrolled in an eligible and accredited school and maintain a 3.0 grade point average in the College Preparatory track through graduation from high school. If a student graduates from high school with a 3.2 grade point average in a Vocational track, they are also eligible to apply for the scholarship. If a student could not meet these requirements upon high school graduation, once they have completed 30 hours of semester credit or 45 hours of quarter college credits, they can also apply for and receive aid. International students or out of state students can also apply for the Hope Scholarship once they have met Georgia residency requirements and have maintained a B average while in school. It is a fair program in that the requirements to earn the scholarship are based entirely on a student’s performance, or merit, in school and on standardized tests like the SAT.
Also making the scholarship program fair, is the fact that a part time student also has the same eligibility as a full time student. The Hope Scholarship can cover 127 credit hours, which also happens to be the usual minimum number of hours required to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. The program also allows for a student to take as many as seven years to complete their study. Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky all have similar scholarship programs for their college bound students. The Tennessee program is also called the Hope Scholarship. The Tennessee, South Carolina, and Kentucky programs are all funded by state lotteries. There have been complaints since the inception of the Hope Scholarship program. There have been many people who lobby against the Georgia state lottery.
Religious groups and advocates for people with lower incomes have claimed that the lottery preys on those with gambling addictions and those who are poor. The Hope Scholarship program has awarded more than 1 billion dollars to more than 1 million deserving students. Helping students finish college is a very worthy cause and even though not everyone can get behind the lottery funding, it is a program that should definitely be continued. To calm critics, the Georgia Student Finance Commission should create more ways to fund the program. It can probably be maintained indefinitely by the Georgia lottery, but providing more avenues of funding would only benefit the Hope Scholarship Program and each of the students it assists.